Old Monk is thought to have been put up for sale by Smith and Williamson, the administrators called in by the company earlier this month.

Although Smith and Williamson was unavailable for comment, staff at Old Monk claimed that the pub company was indeed up for sale.

At the beginning of October Old Monk said it was selling all eight of its Old Monk bars in London, plus Harry's Bar in Docklands, and using the £3.45m proceeds to cut its bank debts.

The buyer was believed to be the Puzzle Pub Company, the London-based pubco headed by Jamie Dutton-Forshaw, a member of the family that own Burtonwood Brewery.

The sale, which represented a book loss of £250,000, left it with 15 Old Monk bars, 10 of the Springbok sports bars the company has been increasingly focusing on, and four or five unbranded pubs.

On 29 September Old Monk flagged serious problems with the announcement that it was in discussions with its bank about its financial position.

Old Monk, which was formed in 1995, is headed by Gerry Martin, the brother of Tim Martin, the JD Wetherspoon's boss. After a time spent opening cask ale-oriented bars, it hit on a successful brand with Springbok sports bars, and announced earlier this year it would be concentrating on the sports bar format and changing the company name to Springbok to reflect this.

It has been selling its lower performing outlets to fund the expansion of its Springbok bars concept, but it has been hit by losses on unbranded pubs and property sales, and an enforced winter closure for its giant Newquay Springbok.