Hey Prezzo! Pizza family aim to make second fortune

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The Independent Online

The Kayes, the family behind the Ask Central pizza chain, yesterday raised £9.3m to fund their latest restaurant venture, Prezzo.

The Kayes, the family behind the Ask Central pizza chain, yesterday raised £9.3m to fund their latest restaurant venture, Prezzo.

The company, which is controlled by Philip Kaye, plans to use the money to expand the 36-strong Italian restaurant chain. It is seeking to mirror the success the Kaye family has had with Ask, which was snapped up by the private equity group that owns PizzaExpress earlier this month for £213m.

Prezzo is run by Jonathan Kaye, who founded the company with a loan from his uncle, Philip. He is the cousin of Adam and Samuel, who built Ask Central into a nationwide chain. Shares in Prezzo rose 13.5p to 137p on news of the fund raising. The company issued 7,750,000 new shares at 120p each, mainly to existing investors. Jonathan Kaye spent £600,000 on 500,000 new shares, giving him a 14 per cent stake in the group.

Philip Kaye, who is employed as a consultant, spent £4m on 3.3 million shares, taking his total shareholding to 50.04 per cent.

Since the start of this year, Prezzo, which started life as a single unit on London's New Oxford Street in November 2000, has opened 11 new sites. Its broker, Evolution Beeson Gregory, is predicting that pre-tax profits will almost double this year to £2m.

It targets buildings "of local interest" for its new sites, much in the vein of PizzaExpress. Yesterday was the third time the company has asked investors to stump up more cash since it floated on AIM in March 2002 at 50p per share. As well as pizza, its menu offers a range of Italian fare, spanning antipasti to oven-baked dishes such as gnocchi gorgonzola. The Kaye family burst on to the UK restaurant scene in the 1960s, with a chain called Golden Egg. They started Garfunkel's, the chain that is now part of the Restaurant Group.

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