Rank, the biggest nightclub owner in the country, is not behind the bid approach, industry sources say. First Leisure, run by Michael Grade, the former media mogul, is also thought unlikely to make a bid.
Pub groups such as Bass, Whitbread and Allied Domecq are believed to have ruled themselves out, raising the prospect that a buyer outside the industry may have begun talks with Northern Leisure.
Northern Leisure's share price has risen rapidly over the past few years as it has successfully expanded its nightclub estate.
The group is now valued at almost pounds 350m, although any bidder will have to offer more than that to be sure of capturing the company.
Nick Oppenheim, chairman, said: "Given the company's prospects it will have to be a generous offer to secure our recommendation."
Northern Leisure is accelerating its acquisition programme, having earmarked at least pounds 30m to open more than 15 sites a year.Reuse content