William Rollason is to step down as the chairman of Paramount Restaurants at the end of this month, to be replaced by current non-executive director Steve Smith, a turnaround specialist, M&C Report has learnt. Smith joined the operator of the Chez Gerard and Brasserie Gerard brands, in March, and is understood to be an experienced independent executive, who specialises in working with troubled and under-performing companies. The appointment of Smith increases speculation that the 35-strong businesses could be set for a further restructure or be placed on the market. He was previously finance director at the Food & Drink Group, the Aim-listed bar group. His seven months at the group coincided with the sale of the majority of the business via a pre-packed administration. It is thought that the group’s banks, Barclays, HSBC and the Royal Bank of Scotland, are behind the appointment of Smith. M&C Report also understands that Ray McClymont, former chief operating officer at the Food & Drink Group, who has been carrying out the role of interim head of operations at Paramount, will now become director of operations reporting to Smith. Simon Rowe will remain as chief financial officer. Rollason, who joined Paramount in August 2009 as a non-executive director, became chairman in May 2010 following the departures of Mark Phillips and Sir David Michel, respectively chief executive and chairman. He was appointed to oversee a strategic review of the group and the disposal of non-core restaurants. Although the review led to the disposal of 39 non-core sites, it was understood that the entire group had been placed in play by the group’s banks. Tragus, Gondola and Richard Caring were all thought to have looked at the business at the time, but baulked at a rumoured £50m-plus price tag. The company’s current 35-strong estate currently comprises 19 Brasserie Gerards, nine Chez Gerards, four Liverbaits and three Bertorellis. It is thought that the business is now worth under half the original asking price. The banks took control of the business from Silverfleet Capital in July 2009 as part of a debt-for-equity process, which saw Paramount’s debts almost halved from £120m to £65m. The consortium of banks, which also included at the time Sankaty, took a majority stake in the business. It is thought that Sankaty’s stake has since been acquired by the remaining three banks. The deal meant investment group Silverfleet Capital, which purchased the business in 2006 for £107m, was no longer a shareholder in the company.

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