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Pret a Manger: sale to Bridgepoint imminent

Pret a Manger founders Julian Metcalfe and Sinclair Beecham look set to sell the upmarket sandwich business to private equity firm Bridgepoint for a rumoured £350m, just weeks before the new capital gains tax regime kicks in.

The on-off sale process has been handled by Rothschild (interestingly, Metcalfe’s London home was formerly owned by Jacob Rothschild) and looks to be in its final phase. As our colleagues at sister title Real Deals revealed earlier this year, private equity firms Advent International and Morgan Stanley’s private equity business were also in the frame. Late last year, Lion Capital is believed to have dropped out of the process over fears that a recession in the US could hurt the company’s transatlantic roll-out plans.

Founder and creative driving force Julian Metcalfe notoriously dislikes giving interviews, (although he’s lightened up over the years) but back in 2000, he gave a rare interview to Real Business. On the eve of finally selling the business, which sold a 33 per cent stake to McDonald’s in 2001, here are seven facts about the intense, detail-obsessed character who’s about to net a significant fortune:

Metcalfe and co-founder Sinclair Beecham established Pret a Manger with a £17,500 loan and left the Polytechnic of Central London to set up the sandwich business.

He told Real Business in 2000 that he has attention deficit hypertension disorder and is known to break off conversations in mid-flow.

Metcalfe once sent a solid silver Tiffany’s yo-yo to a customer who found a hair in her sandwich.

He has an almost religious view of the power of the sandwich. He described Pret’s business as "selling food that has real integrity at a price that millions and millions of people can afford. It’s about food that has a heart and a sould and a reason to be there".

Metcalfe has described himself and Beecham as "useless managers. The entrepreneurial mind is hopeless at running companies." Since its creation in 1986, Pret has almost gone bust on several occasions, has had disastrous overseas forays; and an almost terminal experiment with a new management team.

Metcalfe is also the creator of Itsu, the uber-fashionable sushi restaurant and retail operator.

His grandfather, "Fruity" Metcalfe was best man at the wedding of Edward VIII.

IMHO, for literally transforming the lunchtime experience of millions of workers, Metcalfe and Beecham deserve every penny they make.


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