US private equity firms are eyeing up Hard Rock, the restaurant, hotel and casino chain, following Rank's announcement that it might sell the business, which could fetch more than £500m. The 121 worldwide Hard Rock Cafes generate 25% of Rank's annual operating profit and chief executive Ian Burke may retain the name for two British casinos under a licensing agreement. According to The Sunday Times, Permira is the frontrunner, with talks having started two months ago. The Observer forecasts that Rank will have disappeared altogether within nine months. Bidders for the remaining business, it speculates, will include rivals William Hill and Ladbrokes although a private equity firm is likely to win. The Mail on Sunday 09/07/06 (Financial Mail) page 4 The Sunday Times 09/07/06 (Business) page 3.2 The Independent on Sunday 09/07/06 (Business) page 10 The Observer 09/07/06 (Business) page 3