Geronimo founders net £8m in sale to Young's

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The Independent Online

The husband and wife team behind the Builders Arms in Chelsea and the White Horse in the City secured a Christmas windfall yesterday by selling their business to the Young & Co pubs and brewery group for £60m.

Rupert and Jo Clevely, who set up the Geronimo Inns chain 15 years ago, will remain involved in the operation. Mr Clevely, currently Geronimo's chief executive, will take up a place as an executive director on the Young's board and Mrs Clevely will contribute to design strategy after transferring control of the 26-strong managed pub estate to the Aim-listed company. The £60m will be divided between them and shareholder Penta Capital, which acquired a controlling interest by investing in the business in 2006.

Adding Geronimo will boost Young's managed estate to 148 pubs. The deal brings in 22 central London pubs, with the other four divided between Heathrow, which hosts three, and Surrey, the location of Geronimo's Red Barn in Lingfield. The central London pubs include the Betjeman Arms at the St Pancras International rail station.

"The acquisition fits in very well with our expansion strategy, which is focused on high quality, food-led, managed houses in the London area, a strategy that we will continue to pursue with both the Young's and the Geronimo formats," Young's chief executive, Stephen Goodyear, said.

Analysts welcomed the deal, particularly the continued involvement of Rupert and Jo Clevely. "Together they contribute significant talent in contemporary pub design and operation," KBC Peel Hunt said.

The Clevelys set up the chain after returning from Australia, starting with the Chelsea Ram, which they took over as a tenancy from Young's in 1995. Long before gastropubs became fashionable, they focused on food, which today accounts for more than 40 per cent of sales across the 26 individually designed pubs.