Brakspear family net £35m in sale to rival pubs group

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The Independent Online

Members of the Brakspear family are to share in a £35m windfall after yesterday agreeing to sell their stake in one of the UK's last remaining family-owned pub businesses.

The Henley-based WH Brakspear, which was founded in 1779, has agreed to be bought by JT Davies in a deal that values the company at £106m.

The Brakspear name will be retained across the combined estate of 150 pubs.

JT Davies, also a family-owned pub group that was established in 1875 by the son of a Welsh farmer, already owns 29.9 per cent of the company.

The chairman Michael Davies made his offer after 30 members of the extended Brakspear family decided it was time to sell their holdings amounting to about 30 per cent of the business. Individual stakes range from 0.01 per cent to almost 9 per cent of the business owned by Robert Brakspear, who lives in Australia.

Mr Davies said the agreement meant Brakspear remained under a family-ownership structure, helping to preserve the heritage and tradition of the business. He said: "The enlarged business will benefit from a quality estate of predominantly freehold pubs and the strong relationships with both tenants and suppliers built up over many years."

JT Davies is split into a public house division, with 51 outlets in London and the South-east, and a wholesale wine and spirits operation called Mayor Sworder. Following the deal, Mayor Sworder wines will be served at Brakspear pubs.

The proposed acquisition for £106m represents a discount of 14.3 per cent to the company's share price before the deal was announced. JT Davies said the discount was due to the small number of shares traded on the Plus Market and added that the deal was struck at a better earnings multiple to other recent acquisitions in the sector, including Greene King's purchase earlier this year of Nottinghamshire-based Hardys & Hansons.

The 104-strong Brakspear pub estate includes the Crooked Billet in Stoke Row, Henley on Thames, which hosted the Titanic star Kate Winslet's wedding reception, and the Bull & Butcher in the village of Turville, where scenes from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and The Vicar of Dibley have been filmed.

Brakspear stopped brewing in Henley in 2002, when Wychwood Brewery took on production at a larger site in Witney, Oxfordshire. Brakspear ales are still sold across its pubs.

A Brakspear sat on the board continuously until 1998 when Paul Brakspear retired. The deal still needs shareholder approval, but should be completed in February.