Clapham House swallows Tootsies for £25.3m

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The Independent Online

Victory for Clapham House brings the curtain down on a dismal stock market performance by Urban Dining, the AIM-listed group behind Tootsies that has lost its shareholders money.

Glen Tomlinson, himself a former PizzaExpress finance director, hoped to turn Urban Dining into a restaurant conglomerate. But he failed to find enough groups to buy and is selling Tootsies for less than the £31m he paid for it 18 months ago.

Clapham House beat off competition from Mr Johnson's Giraffe chain, Gondola Holdings, the group behind PizzaExpress and Ask, and Regent Inns. It is funding the offer via a placing to raise £25.4m and also taking on £4m of Urban Dining's debt.

The deal will give Clapham House, which also owns the Bombay Bicycle curry chain and The Real Greek Souvlaki & Bar, a presence outside the M25 for the first time. It plans to re-brand one-third of Tootsies' 30 outlets as Gourmet Burger Kitchen, its luxury hamburger chain. Mr Page said the group was not looking for any more chains but would continue to expand organically.

The cash-and-shares deal gives some of Urban Dining's shareholders the prospect of recouping some of their cash. Cazenove, Merrill Lynch and Henderson Global Investors are among six or seven investors who have either joined Clapham House's share register or added to existing holdings. The recommended deal has support from shareholders representing around 70 per cent of Urban Dining's shares.

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