Ask bid prompts TDR to call on Gavin Anderson

TDR Capital, the venture capital company that owns Pizza Express, has drafted in Gavin Anderson as it considers whether to make a counter bid for rival restaurant operator Ask Central.

Last month, Ask Central, which owns the Ask and Zizzi chains of restaurants, accepted a £168m takeover offer from Café Uno owner City Centre.

TDR brought in Gavin Anderson last week as speculation continued to mount in the financial markets that the company was preparing a counter-bid to block the City Centre takeover.

If successful, the City Centre move threatens to damage TDR’s own businesses. The combination of Ask Central’s 155 UK pizza and pasta restaurants with City Centre’s 250 restaurants nationwide will give City Centre enough of a presence to offer a direct challenge to TDR’s Pizza Express and Nando’s restaurant chains.

Although TDR has yet to make a formal offer for Ask, it has been reported that it is considering a bid of more than 177p a share – the original offer made by City Centre. However, City Centre believes its cash and shares offer is now worth 183p a share. City Centre’s offer will close on 19 January.

TDR acquired Pizza Express in a similar manoeuvre, trumping an attempt by the company’s former chairman Luke Johnson to buy the chain last year.

TDR bought Pizza Express for £27.8m, in conjunction with Nando’s chicken restaurant owner Capricorn Ventures.

Gavin Anderson chief executive Neil Bennett is advising TDR Capital founder Steven Robertson on the planned counter bid.

College Hill partners Matthew Smallwood and Justine Warren are advising City Centre and Ask respectively. College Hill has been retained adviser to Ask for the past 18 months, while City Centre has been the firm’s client for several years.

College Hill will remain the retained adviser to City Centre if the takeover of Ask is successful.

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