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Richard Caring

21 September 2006

Overall ranking: 50 (new entrant)

Restaurateur ranking: 14

Richard Caring - Snapshot Richard Caring is the once-reclusive clothing tycoon who has been shot into the limelight in recent years through his rapid acquisition of a clutch of trophy hospitality businesses.

His current collection includes the exclusive Wentworth golf club and hotel in Surrey (where he serves as chairman) and Caprice Holdings, whose stable of restaurants include three of London's most celebrated eateries in the Ivy, Le Caprice and J Sheekey, along with Scott's, Daphne's, Bam-Bou and two Rivington Grills.

Richard Caring - Career guide
Caring, now 58, made his reputed £300m fortune after realising that clothes could be made much more cheaply in the Far East than in Britain. For 40 years he built up his father's rag-trade business to the point where his major trading vehicle, International Designs (Holdings) was supplying most of Britain's leading multiple clothes retailers - including M&S, Top Shop and Next.

Caring also branched out into retail chains (Whistles), catalogues (Freemans) and labels (Amanda Wakeley).

Spotting that the rise of the Chinese textile industry and the trend for leading fashion firms to source their own clothes meant the middle-man's days were numbered, Caring has wound down this empire in recent years and sought out alternative blue-chip investments.

He is believed to have taken up directorships of more than 30 companies since 2004.

His spending spree in the hospitality and tourism sector kicked off in January 2004 when he bought the Camden Market complex - one of London's most visited tourist attractions for £40m.

Richard Caring - What we think
Caring first burst onto the hospitality scene in December 2004 when he won a hard-fought battle against Irish billionaire Sean Quinn to buy the Wentworth golf club and hotel. At the last minute, Caring teamed up with rival bidder Surinder Arora (founder and chairman of airport hotel operator Arora International and a minority shareholder in the club) to top Quinn's £122m bid with a £130m offer.

Since then, he and deputy chairman Arora (who wants to build a luxury hotel at the club) have limited membership, upped the fees and embarked on a £900,000 refurbishment of the club lounge that included the £450,000 revamp of the club restaurant. Launched in 2006, the 120-seat Wentworth Grill is manned by staff from London's celebrated Ivy and Le Caprice restaurants.

This top-notch kitchen brigade stemmed from Caring's £31.5m acquisition in June 2005 of Caprice Holdings, the highly-respected group of restaurants developed by Jeremy King and Chris Corbin since 1981. Along with the celebrated Ivy, Le Caprice and J Sheekey, the group included the Italian Daphne's, the Vietnamese Bam-Bou and the Morrocan Pasha restaurants.

A major expansion under Caring's ownership kicked off within a month when he bought landmark fish restaurant Scott's in Mayfair in July 2005.

December 2005 bought three major changes, including the sale of Pasha to Algerian restaurateur Tony Kitous. The group snapped up events production and catering company Urban Productions and merged it with Caprice Events to form Urban Caprice.

And the Rivington Grill in Shoreditch - an independent venture founded by Caprice Holdings chef-director Mark Hix and managing director in 2003 - was bought under the Caprice umbrella along with a second branch that opened in Greenwich in early 2006.

As for future plans, Hix has made no secret of his desire to expand Rivington Grill to six sites, while Caring is thought to be planning to open an Ivy in New York's Broadway.

Caring's next target was Signature Restaurants, which had bought Caprice Holdings in 1998. He acquired the group for around £57m in September 2005 to add a mid-market string to his bow.

Signature started as the Belgo Group under former PizzaExpress and My Kinda Town director Luke Johnson who, in 1996, bought the Belgian-beer and moules-et-frites Belgo that was founded in 1992 by French-Canadian Denis Blais and Anglo-Belgian Andre Plisnier.

Although Johnson built up the Belgo and Bierodrome business to more than 10 sites (including a New York venue), waning performance prompted a refocus on the Strada pizza restaurants and a name change to Signature Restaurants in 2002.

Strada is clearly the focus of Caring's interest and he is expected to spend more than £60m building the chain up to 100 sites.

Signature Restaurants (including Caprice Holdings) was named the 11th fastest-growing company in the Sunday Times Profit Track 100 in 2006 thanks to a 110% profit growth between 2001/2 and 2004/5 from £508,000 to £4.7m.

Richard Caring - Further information

Le Caprice official website

Signature Restaurants official website

Wentworth Golf Club official website

Read more about the CatererSearch 100, the list of the most influential people here

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