Marco Pierre White sells flagship Wheeler's of St James site
Marco Pierre White has sold his flagship Wheeler's of St James restaurant in London.
The news follows the closure of the site on St James's Street earlier this week, ostensibly for refurbishment.
White, along with Robert Earl (best known for his Planet Hollywood restaurants), acquired the Wheeler's name, which dates back to 1856, and what was then its last remaining site in Duke of York Street from contract caterer Compass Group in 2002.
That restaurant's operation transferred to former Belvedere chef Matthew Brown, who bought the lease from White for an undisclosed sum in 2004. Brown ran it until 2006 when the restaurant closed amid claims that the freeholder of the site had questioned White's right to sublet the property.
In 2009, White opened a new Wheeler's on St James's Street, on the site of what used to be Prunier's, in collaboration with hotelier Sir Rocco Forte.
It is not clear at this stage who has now acquired the site.
The nine other Wheeler's of St James restaurants, all of which trade outside of London, are not affected by the deal. They are situated at:
Casa hotel, Camberley
Aston hotel, Dumfries
Carnarvon Arms hotel, Highclere, Berkshire
Black Boy Inn, Milton, Oxforshire
Pear Tree, Whiteley, Wiltshire
Rudloe Arms, Corsham, Wiltshire
Horse and Groom Inn, Charlton, Wiltshire
Frogmill, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire
The Angel hotel, Lavenham, Suffolk
David Cumberlidge, operations director of Marco Pierre White's Wheeler's Inns, taking responsibility for those Wheeler's sites outside London, said: "I think it was a case that Marco wanted to concentrate on the countryside because he lives in the country now."
The closure of the St James site is the latest chapter in a difficult recent period for the Wheeler's brand, which last year saw the administration of pub group Powder Train. The company had started using the Wheeler's name at its Chequers Inn pub in Maresfield, East Sussex, and had unveiled plans to open 13 more in 2010.
Meanwhile, earlier this week it emerged that Sanguine Hospitality would open 50 new restaurants using White's name after striking a master franchising deal with the chef.
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