The battle for A-Z Restaurants intensified this week, with a decision on its future expected any day.
Administrator BDO Stoy Hayward said 29 offers for the group of seven London restaurants, either as a whole or in parts, had been received by the first deadline of 18 November. A final bid stage commenced at the beginning of this month, with only a few contenders thought to be left in the running.
|Zafferano, in London's Knightsbridge, is one of seven A-Z Restaurants up for grabs|
Co-founder of A-Z, Claudio Pulze, who initially bid for the whole group in partnership with Caf‚ Med owner Simon Binder, is thought to be one of the final contenders, although he said he is now working with a new partner whose identity he would not reveal.
"I am still trying to get the whole lot," he said. "On Friday [10 December] a deal will be publicly known."
Another name linked closely to the deal is Franco Zanellato, one of Pulze's original partners in A-Z, a former director of the company and a long-term friend. Zanellato is known to have significant backing from within the restaurant group. One insider said a letter of support for his bid had been sent to the administrators - a factor likely to have significant weight.
While Pulze denied he was working in direct partnership with Zanellato, he said that there had been talks. "I am talking to most people who can spare the time at the moment," said Pulze.
Several other names have been linked to a deal, including Marlon Abela, owner of the Greenhouse restaurant.
The seven restaurants affected are Aubergine in Fulham; Zafferano in Knightsbridge; L'Oranger in St James's Street; Alloro in Mayfair; Spiga in Soho; and two Chinese restaurants called Memories of China, in Victoria and Kensington.
A-Z Holdings, the holding company for A-Z Restaurants, was pushed into administration last month after bankers Close Brothers pulled the plug on its funding.
Source: Caterer & Hotelkeeper magazine, 9 December 2004