Doughty Hanson & Co., the private equity firm, has agreed to buy Vue Entertainment for USD 726 million. Doughty Hanson & Co. is buying the movie chain from Cavendish Square Partners, a joint venture between private equity group Coller Capital and Lloyds Banking Group, US hedge fund Och-Ziff and the existing management team.
Vue Entertainment is the third-largest movie chain in the U.K. in terms of box office, with 68 cinemas and 678 screens and more then 140,000 seats. Vue Entertainment has more then 20 per cent of the market and more than 100 screen with 3D capability. It also operates cinemas in Faro, Portugal, and Taipei.
The deal could lead to a major shake-up of Britain’s cinema business. The industry is dominated by private equity, with top player Odeon owned by Guy Hands’s Terra Firma, and number two operator Cineworld Group backed by Blackstone Group.
Doughty Hanson founder and chief executive Tim Richards and Alan McNair is hoping the new investors will back him to take over one of the bigger players, to help them fulfil their ambitious plan to acquire one of their two bigger UK rivals, Cineworld or the combined Odeon & UCI group.
Tim Richards had held senior roles at Hollywood movie studios Warner Bros, Paramount and UCI before leaving to set up Vue with business partner Alan McNair, now chief financial officer and deputy chief executive of the group.
The pair, Tim Richards and Alan McNair, started out of their own homes and garages, before setting up office above a Greek restaurant in Chiswick and growing the group to operate six cinemas by 2001. They then pulled off an audacious £221m acquisition of Warner Village Cinemas in 2003, catapulting the company to become the third largest cinema operator in the UK.
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