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3i exits La Tasca

Penta Capital has acquired La Tasca, a UK chain of tapas restaurants, from 3i and founder Neil Gatt. The MBI package of cash and loan notes is worth GBP28.2 million.

3i, which held just under 40 per cent of the company’s equity, invested GBP3.1 million in La Tasca in 1997. This capital was used to expand the chain, which now has a total 16 branches with another two set to open in the next couple of months and a further seven planned. Neil Gatt, who gained experience with Forte Restaurants and the Berni Restaurant Group, founded La Tasca in 1993. It is now the UK’s leading tapas brand with annual sales of GBP20.3 million and annual operating profits of GBP3 million. Marion Savill, investment director at 3i in Manchester, described the deal as “a successful realisation for all existing shareholders.”

Penta’s has committed up to GBP14.5 million to the MBI while Bank of Scotland supported the deal with debt and a development programme.

John Barnes, a partner in the Penta Network Fund and previously the chairman of Harry Ramsden’s, will chair the newco, The Restaurant People Group, created by Penta to carry out the MBI. The group has also appointed James Horler, managing director of the Frankie & Benny’s restaurant chain, as chief executive. The group plans to continue the rollout of the La Tasca brand.

Anderson Legal advised the shareholders of La Tasca while BDO Stoy Hayward and Garretts advised the vendor.