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Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100: Richard Caring, Caprice Holdings, Soho House Group

01 July 2011
Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100: Richard Caring, Caprice Holdings, Soho House Group

Overall ranking: 5 (ranked 7 in 2010)

Restaurateur ranking: 1 (ranked 1 in 2010)

Richard Caring - Snapshot

Richard Caring is the once-reclusive rag trade millionaire who has emerged into the limelight in recent years through his rapid acquisition of a clutch of trophy hospitality businesses. His current collection includes Caprice HoldingsSoho House Group, the Birley Group (Annabel's, Harry's Bar, Mark's Club) and Wentworth golf club and hotel in Surrey, where he serves as chairman. He also has a stake in brasserie chain Côte (set up by the former management team of Strada) and Bill's Produce Store , and until recently had a majority shareholding in Carluccio's .

Richard Caring - Career guide
Richard Caring's 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.

After buying Wentworth in 2005, Caring realised he needed to raise the standard of food. He approached his favourite restaurant, Le Caprice, in the summer of that year, but as discussions deteriorated Caring joked it was costing him so much he might as well buy the whole Le Caprice group; it emerged that the management was looking for a buyer.

Six weeks later, after selling designer evening wear label Amanda Wakeley, Caring secured a £31.5m deal to take over Caprice Holdings, owner of the Ivy, Le Caprice and J Sheekey, as well as Italian restaurant Daphne's, Vietnamese restaurant Bam-Bou and the Moroccan Pasha restaurant.

In 2005 he also added fish restaurant Scott's and catering firm Urban Productions, but sold Pasha to Algerian restaurateur Tony Kitous. He also bought Strada and Belgo owner Signature Restaurants from Luke Johnson for £57m.

In 2006 Caring bought Rivington, the two-restaurant group independently set up by Caprice Holdings' chef-director Mark Hix. After rapidly expanding Strada over 18 months, he sold it for £145m in 2007 to fund the purchase of the Birley Group, comprising Annabel's, Harry's Bar and Mark's Club, for £95m including a vast art collection.

In 2008 Caring agreed a leveraged buyout of 28 small investors in private members' club Soho House, taking 80% for £105m, with the remainder held by Nick Jones, who remains chief executive and is also his partner in Cecconi's restaurant, which has sites in Mayfair and Los Angeles.

A five-year agreement between the pair matures in 2013. A clause in the deal is that one is then able to buy the other out, assuming certain price conditions are met.

Recession has not been too onerous. In 2009, Le Caprice Group reported a pre-tax profit of £6.1m in the 12 months to the end of June 2008, more than double the £2.8m it posted in 2007.

Caprice also signed a deal with Tatweer in Dubai to launch restaurants across the Middle East and Africa. Ultimately this will see Caprice Holdings restaurant brands in 22 countries over the next seven years.

In 2009 Le Caprice opened in New York in the Pierre hotel, while October 2010 saw the Dubai-based Landmark's £90m takeover deal of Italian restaurant chain Carluccio's.
In summer 2011 the group's iconic Ivy restaurant will open in Dubai, joining the Rivington.

There have also been reports he will open a branch of New York's Balthazar restaurant in London in 2012, after Capital & Counties Properties won planning consent to redevelop the Flower Cellars building in Covent Garden. It is believed the restaurant will have 150 seats.

Richard Caring - What we think
There are serial deal makers; then there is Richard Caring. The perma-tanned rag trade millionaire has been involved in many of the largest, highest profile deals seen in the hospitality industry in recent years - the Ivy, Soho House - but also with smaller operators such as Côte, the brasserie brand set up by two former Strada directors Andy Bassadone and Chris Benians.

Caring's vision is for a "group of top-notch brands" across the globe, described by The Times food critic AA Gill as "the restaurant equivalent of LVMH".

"He's spending a lot more on these businesses than they're probably worth, but eventually he'll have a portfolio that, as a brand, is worth far more than the sum of its parts," Gill wrote in 2007.

With £130m-worth of credit from HBOS in Caring's back pocket, Soho House is set to expand fairly rapidly in the near future, with sites in Istanbul, Tokyo, Shanghai, Cairo and Sydney believed to be on the cards.

In April 2011, he denied reports that he was ready to sell Soho House and has been reported in London Evening Standard as saying Soho House can expand aggressively to 60, 70 or 80 properties if it embraces the franchise model adopted, for example, by Four Seasons hotels. That would spread the start-up costs for a club, which are about £25m-£30m.

"We should be looking at the franchise route, rather than being self-owned. Four Seasons do it very well," he said.

Soho House has been expanding abroad in recent years and new clubs are planned in India, Brazil and Singapore.

Caring also has ambitious targets for Côte. There are currently 12 around the south and Midlands and a further 12 in London and another opening in May 2011 in Covent Garden.

Caring has set out a target to open 20 a year and sees scope for 300 in the UK. There is also Bill's, a giant deli with a restaurant concept, of which there are four, but Caring has set out a target of 200.
He is also looking at sites for Caprice Holdings in the UK - and is not ruling out new deals on hotels, restaurants and clubs. "We have the experience and the management structure, chefs and staff," he has told Square Meal. "I don't think there is anybody in this country who has the depth of people working in food and beverage."

Caring has mooted plans to open an Ivy hotel next door to the iconic restaurant in London. He said the hotel would have about 50-60 bedrooms and would take a couple of years to develop.

Richard Caring's ranking in the 2010 Caterersearch.com 100 >>

Soho House sale called off >>

Hoteliers dominate hospitality Rich List >>

Caprice Holdings to launch Ivy Dubai in spring >>

Caprice Holdings to launch steakhouse in Mayfair >>
Soho Beach House Miami >>

Caprice Holdings website >>

Soho House Group website >>

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