The vultures have begun to circle embattled Mitchells & Butlers (M&B) with expressions of interest from private equity groups and potential trade buyers.
Following on from yesterday's shock resignation of M&B financial officer Karim Naffah and the boards refusal to accept chief executive Tim Clarke's resignation after a £274m loss on a controversial hedge fund, prospective purchasers have emerged.
Robert Tchenguiz, who yesterday lifted his stake in M&B to 22% and made a failed bid for the company in 2006, has been touted as a potential buyer for the business.
Punch Taverns, who spent £2.7b on its managed pubs division Spirit in 2006, has also been mentioned as a possible partner for M&B.
One undisclosed source was reported today on Thomson Financial as saying: "Whoever comes up and shows they can create more value than existing management, the company will go along with them."
He added that with M&B kicking off a strategic review yesterday any evaluation of the business would "clearly put the company in play" and that Clarke had lost the confidence of shareholders and had lost the right to make decisions on their behalf.
Meanwhile sources have told the Times that Punch Taverns was interested in all or part of M&B's pubs and restaurants although discussions had not taken place.
By Christopher Walton
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