Macfarlanes and Travers lead on Pret a Manger sale

Macfarlanes and Travers Smith have been handed key roles in the private equity buyout of sandwich chain Pret a Manger.

The sale, which completed in the early hours of this morning (22 February), saw private equity house Bridgepoint Capital buy a controlling stake in Pret a Manger, in a deal thought to value the business at £350m. Pret a Manger’s management and founders Julian Metcalfe and Sinclair Beecham will retain a significant stake.

Travers, led by head of private equity Charles Barter, acted for longstanding client Bridgepoint. Pret a Manger turned to Macfarlanes and corporate partners Tim Lewis and Charles Meek. The company’s management received separate advice from SJ Berwin partner Steven Davis.

Barter, who has advised on the bulk of Bridgepoint’s corporate work since 1990, said: “This is one of the first big buyouts in the market for quite a while. People think the market is dead. It is clearly not dead. For the right asset there is bank funding available.”

The sale of Pret a Manger has been a protracted process – Travers was first instructed last summer – with buy-out firms concerned that the market for gourmet sandwiches could be hit by the credit crunch. Bridgepoint is said to have been swayed by the potential for growth in the US, where the chain has opened a small number of outets.

US fast food giant MacDonald’s, which had owned 33 per cent of Pret a Manger, sold out of the company. It was represented by Reed Smith Richards Butler.

Ashurst acted for lending bank Rabobank and Sullivan & Cromwell represented Goldman Sachs, which advised Bridgepoint.