Gondola Holdings has appointed Goldman Sachs to lead the sale of its PizzaExpress brand, according to reports.
The Times claimed that the business, which also owns ASK and Zizzi, and recently sold Byron to Hutton Collins for £100m, is set to appoint further advisers in the coming week.
Cinven, the private equity business that owns Gondola Holdings, is reported to be looking for a minimum of £1b for the business, a higher price than previously sought, according to Sky News.
Cinven is thought to have been considering the sale of PizzaExpress for some time, with reports of the plan emerging as early as summer last year.
The PizzaExpress business has nearly 500 sites in a dozen countries, and also has plans to open 200 new restaurants in fast-growing overseas markets like China and India over the next five years.
PizzaExpress is currently run by chief executive Richard Hodgson, the former commercial director of supermarket Morrisons. He joined the role in 2013, following a long hunt for someone to fill the role after Mark Angela left the business July 2011. Angela was succeeded by Steve Easterbrook, who held the position for less than a year before joining Wagamama as chief executive in summer 2012.
PizzaExpress has changed hands several times since it was founded by Peter Boizot in 1965. It was floated on the stock exchange in 1993 before being bought by TDR Capital and Capricorn Associates in 2003 and turned private. It was floated once again in 2005 but was then bought by Cinven in 2007.
Gondola declined to comment on the reported plans for a sale.