Freshfields scoops instruction on Marston’s Eldridge Pope acquisition

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer

has picked up the mandate to advise UK pub group Marston’s on the purchase of smaller Dorset-based rival Eldridge Pope from entrepreneur Michael Cannon.

Marston’s brokered a deal with Cannon to acquire 153 pubs for £155.1m. Freshfields, led by corporate partner Gareth Stephenson, advised longstanding client Marston’s, which owns Pitcher & Piano, Marston’s Tavern Table and Taverners Carvery.

Cannon instructed Scottish firm McGrigors on the sale, with corporate associate Duncan Holden leading.

Cannon bought Eldridge in October 2004 with the intention of implementing a turnaround strategy for the business. At the time of the acquisition, shareholders in Eldridge were offered a share alternative.

The transaction was completed to correspond with Marston’s’ emphasis on increasing revenue from meals.

During the next 12 months Martston’s’ plans to dispose of 18 Eldridge sites is expected to generate proceeds of up to £10m. The remaining 135 pubs will consist of 95 managed sites and 40 tenanted pubs.

The deal, which was mostly financed by cash along with £17.1m of debentures and loan notes, is expected to save £800,000 in annual purchasing costs. In its second year of ownership, the company is expected to save a further £1m in purchasing costs.

Last year Freshfields advised Marston’s (then Wolverhampton & Dudley Breweries) on its £44m acquisition of UK pub operator Celtic Inns from Dunedin Capital Partners.