Ping Pong restaurants were sold after landlords demanded rent repayments
The Ping Pong restaurant chain was sold to three of its company directors for £3.21m in November after struggling with rent debts built up during the pandemic.
Documents show the dim sum group's six sites and assets, including over £124,000 worth of stock, were sold via pre-pack administration to AJT Dimsum Limited.
The newly formed company's directors include former Ping Pong management team James Horler, Tim Thorpe and Artem Sagiryan, who is the son of the chain's long-time backer Igor Sagiryan.
Ping Pong was founded by restaurateur Kurt Zdesar with Igor's backing in 2005 and grew to 13 restaurants within four years. Zdesar left in 2007 and the business later closed several unprofitable sites.
By the end of 2022, Ping Pong had halved its portfolio from its peak to six London restaurants and a central production kitchen and employed 255 people.
A report from administrators Begbies Traynor said the onset of the pandemic had caused "significant disruption" to the business, which had been kept afloat by a £500,000 loan from Igor.
Ping Pong reported trading losses of £1.4m in the year to March 2020 and a loss of £1.86m over the following 12 months before it made it back into the black and posted a profit of £334,000 in the year to March 2022.
The company built up "significant levels" of rent debt during the pandemic but agreed concessions with five landlords and exited its lease at the Westfield Shepherd's Bush shopping centre.
However, some landlords then took a "hard line approach" and one demanded Ping Pong pay more than £900,000 in rent owed in full by autumn 2022 or they would issue the company with a winding up petition when the rent moratorium ended in September 2022.
The company had also not reached agreements with landlords on two other sites where it owed around £600,000 in backdated rent, so it sought insolvency advice.
Ping Pong made a trading loss of just over £448,000 for the six months to September 2022 and Begbies Traynor said it would have "no prospect" of paying the rent debt in full.
As most of the restaurants were trading well and the business had an "optimistic future outlook" it was decided a sale was the best option for the business.
Begbies Traynor were appointed as administrators on 18 November and a pre-pack sale to AJT Dimsum Limited completed the same day.
"[In] the absence of any better alternative offers, it is clear that the pre-packaged connected party sale was conducted in the best interests of the company's creditors," said the administator's report.
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