A Risk Capital Partners NewCo has been established to acquire the Chapel Down-owned Curious Drinks business.

Chapel Down, England’s leading winemaker, is to place the Curious Beer and Cider brands and the Curious brewery and restaurant into administration, wherein the Luke Johnson-backed group will acquire the business and its assets from administrators.

The decision, which will be subject to the granting of HM Revenue & Customs licences, follows significant losses incurred by the business, which sells 90% of its beer to the on-trade, as a result of hospitality closure through the pandemic.

In contrast, Chapel Down’s wide and spirits offer, with a more multi-channel route to market, saw an overall growth of 38% last year, and so the group has decided to focus on building the wine brand and exit Curious Drinks.

There will be no redundancies as a result of the disposal, and it is expected to reduce Chapel Down’s unaudited net debt from £7.2m to £0.1m with £4.6m cash on a proforma basis at 31 December 2020.

“Following a strategic review, the board has taken the decision to focus our energy and resources on building the Chapel Down brand and business to ensure that we continue to flourish,” said Chapel Down CEO Frazer Thompson. “While this has been a difficult decision, we are very pleased to have found in Risk Capital Partners an excellent home for Curious Drinks – and the Curious team – where the business will be able to fulfil its exciting growth potential.”

“We see terrific potential in the Curious Drinks business, and we’re very excited about its future, despite the challenges of the past year,” added Risk Capital Partners founder Luke Johnson.

“Brewing will always be a cornerstone of British culture, and the craft beer revolution has only strengthened that. Curious is a great brand made in a fabulous facility, and with our support we believe the business can be developed further. We are particularly pleased to be taking on all Curious employees, who bring with them a wealth of insight and knowledge.”

Subject to completion of the disposal, Chapel Down will offer all registered Curious shareholders the opportunity to convert their shares in Curious into shares in Chapel Down