July 26 2014 Latest news:
Tuesday, June 3, 2014
Village pubs across west Suffolk begin a new era under new ownership this week having been sold off by Greene King.
At least seven pubs in the west of the county officially transferred to the control of Hawthorn Leisure yesterday as part of a £75million, 275-pub deal that was announced last month.
While Greene King has refused to announce the full list of sold pubs, tenants at The Dun Cow in Bardwell, The Six Bells in Walsham, The Royal George in Barningham, The Gardeners Arms in Tostock, The Crown and Castle in Risby, and two pubs in Barrow – The Weeping Willow and The Three Horseshoes – all told the EADT they had been sold by the Bury St Edmunds-based brewer.
Many tenants, some of whom have been village stalwarts for decades, spoke with uncertainty about their pubs’ futures, with many yet to meet with anyone from Hawthorn Leisure.
Hawthorn is a new company backed by New York investment giant Avenue Capital and private equity firm May Capital LLP, and has said it wants to buy traditional drink-led pubs from other large companies and allow their tenants greater flexibility.
Alan Nurse and his family have run The Dun Cow in Bardwell for 36 of the past 37 years, and was optimistic about the pub’s future.
He said: “All the people we’ve spoken to within Hawthorn Leisure and Matthew Clark (the distribution company Hawthorn are working with) have been very positive,” he said.
Tony Cox, from The Royal George in Barningham, said he felt it was “inevitable” Greene King were going to sell.
Steve Gardener, the tenant at The Gardeners Arms in Tostock, said he had been told he could not speak to anyone from Hawthorn Leisure until after the changeover.
Greene King declined to comment, but chief executive officer Rooney Anand had previously said: “Our strategic plan, announced in July 2010, was to reduce our tenanted and leased estate to 1,200 sites.
“We believe that a smaller estate than originally envisaged is now more appropriate going forward, as we move increasingly to higher growth areas in our markets and to improve the customer offer.”
A spokesman from Hawthorn Leisure said: “Since announcing the transaction we have contacted all of those publicans affected, and we look forward to meeting with them face to face after the transaction completes.”