Cabot Square Capital, the venture capitalist that backed the estimated £130m buyout of Avebury from Daiwa Europe in July 1999, is understood to have appointed Close Brothers Corporate Finance to find a buyer, with analysts estimating its value at between £160m and £180m.
Avebury, which held informal talks with Alchemy Partners last year, was founded in 1997 when it bought 147 pubs from Wolverhampton & Dudley Breweries.
Since then, it has acquired several pub packages from the likes of Whitbread and Bass and a year ago completed a £140 million securitisation. Earlier this year it acquired Stanford, another Cabot Square-owned pub company specialising in managed houses.
Pubmaster said that after its recent financial restructuring the company was "in a position to secure a major deal" and had the management to handle a much bigger business.
It said: "We cannot comment on acquisition plans on an individual basis. However, the potential sale of the Avebury pub estate would present us with a significant opportunity."
Pubmaster, which has about 2,000 pubs, is also thought to be eyeing part of the 3,000-strong Whitbread pub estate, having been linked to a joint bid of about £1.5 billion in partnership with Candover. Nomura, Morgan Grenfell Private Equity and Punch Taverns are also in the running.
• Pubmaster chief executive John Sands will speak at next week Pub Strategy Conference in London. To book your place to here him - and the rest of the panel of expert speakers - click here