Marston's acquires Eldridge pub estate for £155m

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The pub entrepreneur Michael Cannon has sold the Eldridge Pope pub estate to Marston's for £155.1m just three years after buying the group for £42.3m.

Mr Cannon, who has made his estimated £250m fortune buying and selling pub companies, snapped up the struggling Eldridge Pope business in 2004 for £82m, including debt. He streamlined and developed the business, which consists of predominantly community pubs with an emphasis on food; analysts say they will provide a good fit with Marston's Pitcher & Piano estate. Marston's chief executive, Ralph Findlay, said the acquisition would complement its existing business "operationally and geographically" and would strengthen its coverage in the South.

The continuing Eldridge Pope estate consists of 95 managed and 40 tenanted pubs, mostly in Hampshire, along with the Que Pasa high-street bars brand and Fairdeed, a wholesale business which distributes wine and spirits to the pubs. Marston's, which recently changed its name from Wolverhampton & Dudley Breweries, said it would convert up to a dozen of its own unbranded high-street bars into Que Pasa sites following the deal. It expects to generate up to £10m from the sale of 18 sites over the next 12 months.

Marston's also toasted a good start to the year with like-for-like sales up 7 per cent in its managed pubs division during the 16 weeks to 20 January.