MGPE 'won't be hiving off any pubs'

The buyer of Whitbread's 3,010 pubs, Morgan Grenfell Private Equity, is keen on running both sides of the business, tenanted and managed, according to the current boss of the old Pubs and Bars division, Stewart Miller.

Miller will be staying with Whitbread when the deal is completed some time in May, to run the David Lloyd leisure clubs.

However, he said that he and the Pubs and Bars management had been told by MGPE, part of Deutsche Bank, that it saw potential in both the managed and tenanted wings of the estate.

Miller said that while the price paid for the estate, £1.625bn was "at the upper end", MGPE was "delighted with the transaction, and with the quality of the estate". It has 1,300 managed pubs and 1,710 tenanted ones.

Outside commentators have been saying MGPE is likely to to convert many of the managed houses to tenancies and dispose of most of the 193 branded High Street outlets, which include the Hogshead chain.

Ian Payne, currently managing director of Hilton's Ladbroke Casinos division and previously the boss of the old Bass Lease Company, now part of Punch, will be chief executive of the company that will run the former Whitbread pub estate.

Payne stayed with Hilton Group when it sold Ladbroke to Gala Group Holdings in January, to oversee Hilton's sale of its last two casinos in Egypt.

Miller said that despite saying he originally wanted to stay with the Pubs and Bars division under its new owners, the uncertainty over who the new owner would be and what their plans were, coupled with the offer of the David Lloyd job, had persuaded him to stay with Whitbread. "It's a good opportunity to join a very impressive business," he said. "It's too early to say what I'll be doing with David Lloyd, but I shall be mmeeting the senior team over the coming weeks."

Whitbread is to return around £1.13bn of the sale proceeds to shareholders through a cash payment of 230p a share. It will be left with about £445m after costs with which to chase deals and cut back debt.

Threats from Punch Group to invoke a non-compete clause it says exists between itself and MGPE's parent, Deutsche, have been dismissed by the finance house, which said Punch's claim was "a joke" and Punch had "screwed up" by missing out on "one of the best pub estates in Britain".