Billionaire businessman Joe Lewis has emerged as a major shareholder in Birmingham-based Mitchells & Butlers – owner of the Harvester and All Bar One brands.
He has secured a near 22 per cent stake in Mitchells after property tycoon Robert Tchenguiz was forced to sell most of his holding because of his exposure to Icelandic bank Kaupthing.
The bank is one of Mr Tchenguiz’s financial backers and called back a loan, prompting the sale of the Mitchells stake. Market speculation suggested that Mr Tchenguiz’s 10 per cent stake in supermarket Sainsbury’s had also been sold. Mr Lewis suffered his own credit crunch blow this year after he lost more than £500 million in the cut-price buyout of US bank Bear Stearns. He was the second largest shareholder with a near 10 per cent stake.
The British-born entrepreneur, who is based in the Bahamas, holds investments in Tottenham Hotspur as well as a host of other worldwide companies.
Mr Lewis started Tavistock Group 30 years ago after becoming a multi-millionaire when he sold his father’s catering business, Tavistock Catering.
A spokesman said yesterday: “We are delighted to have the opportunity to make a significant investment in Mitchells & Butlers.”
The group owns and operates 2,000 pubs, including O’Neill’s, Vintage Inns and Toby Carvery.
Mr Tchenguiz has retained a 3.4 per cent stake in Mitchells, but the reduction in his holding signals the end of a lengthy attempt by Mr Tchenguiz to unlock value in the pub chain’s property assets.
It is thought the Mitchells shares were sold at a fire-sale price of 130p a share, compared with 163p on Tuesday. That would value the holding at around £114 million.
Mitchells hedged against rising interest rates last summer as part of a £4.5 billion property deal with Mr Tchenguiz. But potential investors pulled out following the credit crunch – causing the plans to be shelved and leaving the company nursing heavy losses.