The Oakman Group has bought six former Seafood Pub Company sites from administrators, with founder Joycelyn Neve (pictured) to join Oakman as managing director of its new seafood pub division.
The group will initially be based in the north of England and will see the restoration of some 150 jobs. The acquisitions contribute towards Oakman's target of 40 pubs by the end of 2021.
The six sites that Oakman has acquired are:
- Alma Inn, Colne, Lancashire
- Derby Arms, Longridge, Lancashire
- Farmers Arms, Great Eccleston, Lancashire
- Fenwick Arms, Claughton, Merseyside
- Fleece Inn, Addingham, West Yorkshire
- Forest Inn, Fence, Lancashire.
The Seafood Pub Company was founded by Neve in 2010, and Neve was awarded the Pub and Bar Award at the 2016 Cateys. The 10-strong group filed for administration in June last year after failing to secure a Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan (CBIL) or raise additional funding from investors. Four sites remain unsold.
Neve said: "I have been a huge admirer of the Oakman Group, its ethos and its ambition. They have acquired the cream of the Seafood Pub Company sites and I'm confident that, with the Oakman team's support, we will prove to be enormously successful. My expectation at this stage is that all six pubs will reopen on 17 May and we will immediately start work on putting our new teams together."
Oakman Group chief executive Dermot King said: "I am delighted that we have acquired these sites, which will be the foundation stone for the third brand within our group – with the Seafood Pub joining the Oakman Inn and Beech House brands within our portfolio.
"Furthermore, these acquisitions will represent the next stage in our strategic development as we look to extend our boundaries beyond our Home Counties heartland. We believe that there is significant untapped potential in the premium pub sector and I am not placing any upper limits on our ambition."
The deal was overseen by Oakman Group's vice-chairman, John Leslie. Alex Ford, until recently operations director, has also been promoted to managing director of Oakman Inns.
Oakman Group founder and chairman Peter Borg-Neal added: "Alex has made considerable progress as a leader since joining us in 2014 and we are delighted to recognise his success with this appointment. He will be responsible for the development of the Oakman Inn and Beech House brands in the coming years.
"Joycelyn is a hugely talented retailer and will, with our support, now have the opportunity to build a bigger and better collection of Seafood Pubs across the UK. She will also add further expertise to our already impressive Oakman Group executive team and will contribute to the wider development of our business."
Noel Moffitt, senior director, Christie & Co, who handled the sale on behalf of administrators BDO, said: "The portfolio of inns attracted a huge amount of interest from a wide range of potential buyers including corporate, regional and local operators, as well as a number of high net-worth individuals. It is fantastic to see the Oakman Group expanding their geographical heartland from the south and midlands into Lancashire and Yorkshire.
"This was an incredibly complex transaction in very challenging times, and none of us expected to still be in lockdown 12 months on. The deal demonstrates that the market is not as depressed as many would have you believe, although we are waiting for further clarity on the rent moratorium at the end of March and, if this isn't extended, it is likely we may see more distressed assets coming to the market."
Law firm Freeths advised on the deal. Leo Skinner, partner and head of the drinks, hospitality and leisure team, said: "Natalie Drought and I are delighted to have advised the Oakman Group and their investors on this acquisition and to be part of the Oakman growth strategy."