London restaurant tycoon Richard Caring is reportedly in talks to acquire the Corbin & King group, which is in the middle of a bitter public dispute with its majority shareholder Minor International.
The Times this weekend reported that Minor had approached Caring — owner of Caprice Holdings and shareholder in the international Soho House group — is an “early frontrunner” to take over a business, which last week was reportedly said to have been unable “to meet its financial obligations.”
Caring is thought to be meeting with representatives of Minor this week.
While Caring and Corbin & King operate restaurants in the high-end, big-money environs of Mayfair and the West End, there is an admiration for the latter that is rarely bestowed on the former from those who are either passionate or sentimental about restaurants as restaurants, less restaurants as businesses. Caring, lest we forget, is the owner of the Ivy portfolio, which is responsible for one of the most racist and obnoxious hospitality projects in recent years, as well as celebrity magnets Sexy Fish and Annabel’s.
Sunday Times restaurant critic Marina O’Loughlin tweeting that Caring acquiring Corbin & King “would be a genuine travesty…”
Others, like King himself, were a little less direct. CODE Hospitality quotes him saying: “There’s a difference between a restaurateur and a restaurant owner. Restaurant owners run businesses from the boardroom and restaurateurs run them from the restaurant floor.”
The move from Caring comes after a week in which the dispute between Corbin and King and Minor escalated in public, and which resulted in Minor placing the restaurants’ holding company into administration. In a statement, it emphasised that “the appointment of administrators does not affect the operations of the restaurants within the Group, which continue to trade.” King took to YouTube to outline how it was “business as usual” in his restaurants.
King described the move by Minor as a “power play,” and said that he and business partner Chris Corbin planned to “buy back” the holding company out of administration. As reported last week, Corbin and King departing Corbin & King is not likely to happen any time soon.
The group in question includes the Wolseley, Brasserie Zedel, Colbert, and Fischer’s — restaurant that are among London’s most famous and frequented in the city.