It's last orders at De Vere's

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The Independent Online

De Vere Group, the hotel and health club operator formerly known as Greenalls, has put its drinks wholesaling business up for sale.

De Vere Group, the hotel and health club operator formerly known as Greenalls, has put its drinks wholesaling business up for sale.

Close Brothers, the merchant bank, has been appointed to find a buyer for Tavern Group, the UK's largest drinks distributor, supplying pubs, hotels and off-licences. An information memorandum has been circulated, and it is understood various expressions of interest have been received. Interest is expected to come from venture capitalists, drinks groups and other distributors. The business, with a turnover of £200m a year, is likely to sell at a discount to its net asset value of £30m.

The Tavern sale had been delayed while De Vere sorted out the loss-making subsidiary that has become a drain on its management resources. But now several depots around the country have been sold and over 100 staff laid off, it's understood De Vere is ready to find a buyer. A spokeswoman declined to comment on Tavern's future.

Its sale would mark the latest stage of the dramatic reinvention of Greenalls. The die was cast in September when Greenalls said it had sold its pub and restaurants division to Scottish & Newcastle for £1bn.

An equally dramatic change took place with the appointment last December of a new chief executive, Paul Dermody, 53, a Greenalls stalwart who's spent 36 years with the Warrington-based company. He replaced Lord Daresbury, one of the Greenalls family who is now non-executive chairman.

Turning its back on the drinks business with which the name traditionally has been associated, Greenalls is concentrating on the company's De Vere and Village Leisure hotel concepts as well as Greens, its health club division, instead. Tavern's disposal would mark another milestone on that road, although the slimmed-down state of De Vere has prompted speculation that it will be swallowed up by a larger operator, possibly Whitbread.

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