Macfarlanes and SJ Berwin on either side of Wagamama sale

Macfarlanes and SJ Berwin have claimed the leading mandates for rival private equity houses on the £215m sale of noodle bar Wagamama.

The Japanese-style food chain has been sold by Lion Capital, advised by SJ Berwin, to Duke Street ­Capital for more than ­double what the private equity seller paid for the company in 2005.

Head of corporate Steven Davis led the SJ Berwin team, with banking partner Ian Borman on the financing side of the transaction. Financing came in part from an £82m mezzanine and equity tranche provided by investment house Hutton Collins.

SJ Berwin acted for Lion on its 2005 acquisition of Wagamama, when it was bought from Graphite ­Capital Management for £105m. It was one of the City firm’s first instructions from the buyout house. Lion again turned to SJ Berwin when it first mooted a sale of the restaurant chain in 2007.

Davis said: “Wagamama has a number of characteristics that have enabled it to transact in a difficult M&A marketplace. It’s a leading brand, which has been resilient in recent years, and it has the opportunity to grow both domestically and internationally with a strong management team.”

Since Lion took ownership of the chain it has more than doubled its number of UK outlets to 70 and launched in the US with three restaurants in Boston.

Duke Street, also a ­longstanding client of SJ Berwin’s, turned to Macfarlanes for this deal, with ­private equity chief Charles Meek leading, supported by corporate partners Luke Powell and Simon Perry along with debt finance ­partner Chris Lawrence.

Meek commented: “We’re very pleased to have acted for Duke Street on a transaction that will, we hope, give Duke Street, Hutton Collins and Wagamama’s management team the chance to take an already successful and well-known brand through the next phase of its growth.”

Travers Smith acted for Graphite, which had retained a minority shareholding in the company, and for Wagamama’s ­management team. Private equity partner Andrew Roberts led for the firm, with support from tax ­partner Kathleen Russ.

Hutton Collins turned to Dickson Minto, with finance partner Michael Barron leading.