A transatlantic deal has been agreed to take sports catering in the UK beyond a cup of Bovril and a lukewarm pie, creating a group with clients ranging from Celtic Park in Glasgow to the home ground of the San Francisco 49ers.
US stadium catering provider Centerplate has agreed to acquire the UK’s Lindley Group to form a combined company with revenues of £660m and employing 35,000 people worldwide.
Lindley Group provides catering for stadiums across the UK as well as a number of heritage sites and museums, such as the Hepworth Wakefield in Yorkshire.
Big contract wins with football clubs such as Tottenham Hotspur helped revenues jump almost a fifth year on year to £52.1m for the year to 31 May 2012.
But Lindley, based in Stoke-on-Trent, remained lossmaking, with pre-tax losses at £1.5m, broadly flat year on year.
Lindley’s management will stay on at the group, according to the deal.
Adam Elliott, chief executive, said: “Achieving global scale through this merger with Centerplate is a massive boost for the Lindley Group, which will benefit from an infusion of resources and expertise.”
Des Hague, chief executive of Centerplate, said the combined group would focus on ensuring that regional diversity shone through at each stadium’s menu.
“You can go into the Arsenal and you wouldn’t know you were there rather than anywhere else in the country,” said Mr Hague.
“I want [food] to be part of the experience. You get to the game and you endure the eating. We want people to turn up early and get great service.”
While Premier League teams have improved food for corporate hospitality packages, catering standards for those in the cheap seats have remained relatively low.
“That disposable corporate income is not there any more,” said Mr Hague. “The everyday fan has become even more important.”
The deal had been worked on for about a year and was signed on Wednesday. It is the first major move by Centerplate since it completed a management buyout together with private equity group Olympus Partners in late 2012 in a deal that rating agency Standard & Poor’s estimated at $551m.
Mr Hague said the group was looking for further acquisitions in the sector. “Our powder is very, very dry. We believe that there needs to be consolidation in the sector and we want to be the consolidator.”
The private equity-backed group is profitable, according to managers, although it declined to give exact numbers. Mr Hague said that profitability had doubled in the past four years.
Lindley Group, advised by Livingstone Partners, rebuffed other approaches before signing with Centerplate, says Mr Elliott. “There have been quite a few people knocking on the door.” Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
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