Another historic brewer was snapped up yesterday after Greene King unveiled a £270 million deal for Hardys & Hansons.
East Midlands-based Hardys, which owns 268 pubs and brews Olde Trip and Cool, has backed the terms of the offer from the larger Suffolk company.
"This is right in our sweet spot," said Greene King chief executive Rooney Anand.
"We're a bit patchy outside our heartland of the South-east and this brings us 268 pubs in the Midlands and part of the north of England."
Greene King, whose shares closed up 25p at 749p, said each Hardys & Hansons shareholder would receive £10.59 cash, a premium of about 48 per cent to the average closing price for the six months ended June 9.
The deal combines 200-year-old Greene King, brewer of Old Speckled Hen and Abbot Ale, with a 174-year-old brewer known for ales like Olde Trip - named after one of its pubs, Ye Olde Trip To Jerusalem Inn, beneath Nottingham Castle.
Greene King has more than 2,400 pubs after expansion in recent years has seen it acquire Scotland's largest regional brewer Belhaven, and E ssex-based family-run brewer TD Ridley. Yesterday's proposed deal will enable it to build a presence in the East Midlands region, where it is currently under-represented.
Family shareholders at Hardys hold about 50 per cent of the voting rights.
Patrick Helps, chairman of the holding company which represents family shareholders, said: "It is a watershed in the company's 174-year history. However, we could not have
wished for a better owner than Greene King to continue Hardys & Hansons' heritage, culture and successful business model."
He said he had confidence that Greene King would "show sensitivity" as they integrated the two businesses.
Mr Anand said the two businesses had a similar culture.
"It's got a family feel, a bit like us, and if they're going to lose their independence, they'd sooner lose it to us than to anyone else," he said.
Greene King will continue to brew Hardys beers, although the future of the Hardys brewery at Kimberley, Nottinghamshire has not been disclosed.
Last month, plans were revealed by Young & Co to sell its Ram Brewery in south London and merge the Wells and Young's brands. The Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) urged shareholders to reject the proposal "and draw a line in the sand on behalf of beer consumers".
It added: "Camra is greatly concerned that this latest acquisition of Hardys & Hansons' 268-strong pub estate would take the number of pubs now owned by Greene King and selling its beers to some-where around 2,680 nationwide."