Osmond to face probe over ski bar purchase

Hugh Osmond, the City entrepreneur behind Punch Taverns and PizzaExpress, is to be investigated over a deal to buy a small chain of bars from a travel company that collapsed earlier this year.

The probe will centre on a tiny deal, worth less than £200,000, struck by a company called Town and Field, where Mr Osmond is a director and shareholder.

It bought the Dick's Tea Bar chain, which operates in the French resorts of Chamonix, Méribel and Val d'Isère, as well as a hotel in Verbier, in May from the ailing ski travel company Brown Rock. Mr Osmond was a shareholder in Brown Rock and had been a director of the company until days before the deal.

A few weeks later, Town and Field sold the businesses on to the Mark Warner travel group.

Brown Rock was placed in receivership in July on the application of another City figure, the former British & Commonwealth chairman John Gunn. He was one of several high-profile investors on Brown Rock's shareholder register, along with Luke Johnson, who used to be Mr Osmond's business partner, and David Page, the former chief executive of PizzaExpress. All were tempted to invest in Brown Rock in the mid-1990s when it was promoted as a fashionable skiing holiday-related business.

Mr Gunn said he was concerned about how the company had been run and how it was dealing with creditors and felt obliged to have a receiver appointed.

The receiver, Mike Bowell of MBI Equity, a firm based in Guildford, Surrey, said he had concerns about the deal to sell Dick's Tea Bar to Mr Osmond. "I can confirm that that transaction will definitely be investigated because of the timing and because it was a transaction with a related party," Mr Bowell said.

One of the aspects he will be looking at is whether Mr Osmond was able to secure a bargain because of his close relationship with the company.

Mr Osmond denies that he made any money out of Dick's Tea Bar, saying he bought the business to help Brown Rock financially.

"This was a private investment in a company Hugh liked," said a spokesman for Sun Capital Partners, Mr Osmond's private equity business. "He acquired the bars in an attempt to keep the business afloat but in the end it was not enough. He paid a full price for the business as anyone who investigates will find out."

The price paid for Dick's Tea Bar was so small Mr Osmond could not remember the figure, a spokesman said. The exact price has not been released but is understood to be less than £200,000, a fraction of Brown Rock's debts which stood at over £2.4m when it went into receivership.

Martin Thompson, the chairman of Brown Rock, said the sale to Mr Osmond was a distressed deal, which the company contemplated only after two previous deals to sell the entire group had fallen apart. "In the environment we were in, any price was a good price," he said.

Mr Thompson, the former head of the travel group Abercrombie & Kent, was brought into the company in 2000 when it was already running into difficulty.

He entered into talks with one travel group in 2001 only for the deal to be dashed in the wake of the 11 September terrorist attacks, and then was close to selling Brown Rock to TUI, the German travel group, when the Iraq war intervened.

The assets of two of Brown Rock's businesses, Meriski and The Ski Company, were also sold before the group went into receivership. However, they were not sold to related parties and Mr Bowell is unlikely to investigate them.

Mr Osmond, 41, came to prominence when he joined with Luke Johnson in expanding and floating PizzaExpress. On his own, he struck a deal to buy Allied Domecq's pubs business, which floated as Punch Taverns last year, making him a multi-millionaire. He made an unsuccessful attempt earlier this year to stop the demerger of Six Continents.

Sport
footballLIVE City face Stoke, while Warnock returns to Palace dugout
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Arts and Entertainment
books
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
gadgets + techSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind the scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
News
i100
News
The slice of Prince Charles and Princess Diana's wedding cake and the original box from 29 July 1981
newsPiece of Charles and Diana's wedding cake sold at auction in US
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF, BGP, Multicast, WAN)

£35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF,...

DevOps Engineer (Systems Administration, Linux, Shell, Bash)

£50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: DevOps Engineer (Systems Administration, L...

Data Scientist (SQL, PHP, RSPSS, CPLEX, SARS, AI) - London

£60000 - £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A prestigious leading professiona...

Financial Technical Consultant (C++, C#, Finance, MSc, PhD)

£50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Financial Technical Consultant (C++, C#, F...

Day In a Page

Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference