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Outspoken Restaurateur Returns to Save Embattled Steak Chain

Former managing director, Martin Williams (now of M Restaurants) returns to Gaucho, which has been bought out of administration

Martin Williams has returned to Gaucho
M Restaurants [Official Photo]

Gaucho, the embattled steak chain, which entered administration in July following the collapse of its sister brand Cau, has been sold to a new company, Lomo Bidco Limited. Behind that new entity, created to save the profitable arm of the Gaucho group, are “banking and finance group” SC Lowy and Gaucho’s existing lenders, Investec Bank. MCA reported this lunchtime that M Restaurants’ Martin Williams will be in charge of Gaucho’s future direction.

Lomo Bidco will acquire Gaucho’s 16 U.K. restaurants — retaining and securing the company’s nearly 750 employees — conditioned on the successful implementation of a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA), which launches today. That is the necessary actions Gaucho must make in order to satisfy its creditors (compromises with landlords and banks); and what Deloitte said “is a necessary step to exit...administration and place the business on a strong footing.”

At the same time, Oliver Meakin, Gaucho’s current CEO, has announced that he is stepping down from the company “now that the future of the business has been secured under new owners.”

Although the statement from Deloitte does not say Williams will be Meakin’s direct replacement, it does say that the CEO and founder of the “group of M branded drinking and dining venues” (M Restaurants) “will be working with the key stakeholders to drive the next stage of Gaucho’s development.”

A spokesperson for Williams would not elaborate on the specific role Williams has been given by Gaucho.

The appointment, though, comes less than seven months after Williams launched an unprovoked attack on chain restaurants, which have had a hard time in the past twelve months, saying that they were “dying” because they were “devoid of quality and personality.” Williams also put himself forward as a potential suitor following the collapse of Barbecoa, Jamie Oliver’s steak restaurant, in February.

Matt Smith, a partner at Deloitte said that administrators were delighted that Investec and SC Lowy have agreed to purchase Gaucho, “which offers the best outcome for all parties.”

“Gaucho is a profitable and successful business and with the support of its new owners can now focus on its future growth plans,” he added.

The departing Meakin said it was a fantastic outcome for Gaucho and “particularly for our exceptional colleagues.”

“I would also like to thank all of our suppliers and guests for their continued support throughout this challenging process, which is a testament to the strength of the Gaucho brand,” he added.

A spokesman for Investec said: “We have supported Gaucho since 2016 and continued to provide support to the business through the difficult conditions experienced in 2018... We believe the creditor group will support the necessary CVA allowing Gaucho shortly to exit administration so we can take the business forward.”

Gaucho’s sale is expected to complete in mid-October, following approval of the CVA.

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