Rank settles £19m dispute with Earl

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The Independent Online

Robert Earl, the multimillionaire restaurant entrepreneur behind the Planet Hollywood brand, added another £18.8m to his fortune yesterday after settling a 17 year-old dispute with the owners of the rival Hard Rock Café.

Robert Earl, the multimillionaire restaurant entrepreneur behind the Planet Hollywood brand, added another £18.8m to his fortune yesterday after settling a 17 year-old dispute with the owners of the rival Hard Rock Café.

The battle goes back to 1987 and has been carried through a complex web of takeovers, culminating with Rank Group, the casino operator and owner of the Hard Rock brand.

It involves the share of profits in Mr Earl's former business group, President Entertainment, which was a holding company for Mr Earl's restaurant and leisure interests at the time. It was bought by another leisure group, Pleasurama, in 1987. They entered an earn-out agreement, dependent on the profits and growth of the companies in the President Entertainment stable.

Pleasurama, which then became the owner of the Hard Rock business, was bought by Mecca Leisure in 1988. Rank inherited Mr Earl's claim to profits in 1991 when it took over the Mecca bingo group. Mr Earl, who is thought to be worth about £120m, continued to run the businesses, including the Hard Rock Café, until 1991. He then set up Planet Hollywood, which has since been plagued with bankruptcy.

The two parties had been unable to agree on Mr Earl's share of the profits and the price of the original acquisition, and so an independent accountant was brought in to resolve the issue in 1995.

Mr Earl had made a claim for £108m, but the accountant ruled that only £10m was due, and a further £8.6m in interest payments. Rank, which also owns the Grosvenor casino chain, has fully reserved for the payout and said it would not affect its profit and loss account.

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