Hampshire: Moore Blatch advises on £30m bar-restaurant deal

Corporate lawyers from Moore Blatch in Hampshire have advised the Imbiba Partnership and management team on the £30 million management buyout and expansion financing by mid-market private equity firm Bowmark Capital of Drake & Morgan, the fast-growing London-based bar-restaurant group. 

Drake & Morgan was founded in 2008 by the Imbiba Partnership, the specialist bar and restaurant investment partnership, and managing director Jillian MacLean, the highly-regarded leisure entrepreneur with over 20 years’ experience in the hospitality industry. The vision was to create an innovative new chain of bar-restaurants in London that combined a stylish, accessible and female-friendly environment with a unique all-day food and drink offering.

Since opening its first site, The Refinery, in Southwark in late 2008, Drake & Morgan has added The Parlour in Canary Wharf, and three sites in the City of London: The Anthologist, The Folly and The Drift. Two additional venues are due to open later his year and the company has a strong pipeline of sites for development.

The ‘eating and drinking out’ market has shown long-term growth over the past 20 years, and has proven resilient throughout the economic downturn. Within this market, Drake & Morgan, which has won numerous industry awards, has performed particularly strongly – having grown sales at over 75% per annum over the past three years to the current level of £18m.

Moore Blatch corporate partner Roger Bailey, who led a team of 10 lawyers on the complex deal, said: “We have worked with Drake & Morgan since it was founded and, having seen it develop into one of the best restaurant-bar offerings around, we are delighted to have helped Imbiba and the management team in realising and co-ordinating an exit for the company’s 79 shareholders and in providing a platform for its further growth.”

John Connell of Imbiba said: “The performance of Roger Bailey and his team was truly exceptional. They were the stars of the show. They were ahead of the game at all times and were able to anticipate issues and work through them quickly and efficiently, enabling a complex and challenging deal to be delivered.”

As part of its future plans, Bowmark has committed further funds to support the roll-out strategy, alongside a debt package from RBS Financial Sponsors. Bowmark has a strong track record of backing successful roll-outs in the leisure industry, including previous investments in the Las Iguanas and Living Room restaurant and bar chains.

Connell will continue in his role as chairman of Drake & Morgan post-transaction. He and his fellow Imbiba partners, Simon Wheeler and Mark Brumby, are retaining a minority stake, alongside Jillian MacLean and her management team.

Connell commented: “This transaction is consistent with our ’buy, build and exit’ business model. Drake and Morgan has now completed its start-up stage following which the dynamics of the company will change, and it is now time to hand over to new owners to move the company to a more mature level. This exit represents a truly excellent return for Imbiba Partnership shareholders and illustrates our consistent ability to deliver significant shareholder value. We have known Bowmark for a long time and have been impressed by their understanding and approach to the sector. I look forward to working with them during this transition period and seeing Drake & Morgan flourish over the coming years.”