MBO caps eight years of turbulence for Buckley's brewery

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BUCKLEY'S has rejoined the ranks of independent regional brewers after a turbulent eight years, in which it has been stalked by Nazmu Virani, fought off Tony Cole, been taken over by Peter Clowes, and been rescued twice by Guinness.

The brewery, founded in South Wales in 1767, was yesterday prised out of Guinness as part of a management buyout of Crown Brewery.

Crown orginally merged with Buckley in 1989, a year after Guinness first rescued the brewery from the collapsed Barlow Clowes empire.

In 1990, however, Crown ran into difficulty. Guinness stepped in again, swapping debt for equity via its Harp Lager Company. Guinness's rescue was defensive, protecting distribution of Harp lager in South Wales.

The buyout team, headed by Mike Salter, managing director, is believed to have paid about pounds 6m for Crown, also owner of a packaging business and 80 pubs. Crown will additionally manage 90 pubs owned by Harp.

Final approval for the deal will be sought from minority holders of 25 per cent of Crown on Saturday week. They will be offered a one-for- one share swap in a company set up by management to buy Crown.

Harp does not envisage any problems with the minority holders, who have become accustomed to extraordinary meetings since Nazmu Virani bought a 7 per cent stake in 1985.

Mr Virani was recently charged with theft of pounds 675,000 in connection with the collapsed Bank of Credit and Commerce International.

His stake in Buckley's was sold in 1986 to Bestwood, the financial services company run by Tony Cole. Bestwood took its stake to 28 per cent, but failed to win a boardroom seat.

Mr Cole recently received a two- year suspended jail sentence after admitting misappropriating more than pounds 700,000 from Bestwood to finance personal share dealing.

Bestwood's stake was eventually sold for pounds 5.7m, and used as an effective takeover platform in 1987 by Brodian, then owned by Peter Clowes, who is now in jail.