Danu in talks to exit Mer­can­tile bars group

The Irish Times - Business - - BUSINESS - MARK PAUL Busi­ness Af­fairs Cor­re­spon­dent

In­vest­ment group Danu Part­ners is in talks to sell its mi­nor­ity stake in the Mer­can­tile pub group to its Ir­ish-US co-in­vestors, ac­cord­ing to sources.

Danu, com­pris­ing Mark O’Meara and Se­tanta Sports founders Leonard Ryan and Mickey O’Rourke, owns about 22 per cent of the pub group, which in­cludes well-known Dublin nightspots such as Cafe en Seine and Whe­lans.

Danu has held talks about sell­ing its stake to EMI-MR, a com­pany con­trolled by Ir­ish-born, US-based scaf­fold­ing ty­coon Michael Bres­lin and US-based Kerry builder Mau­rice Re­gan.

EMI-MR owns 78 per cent of the group, and would be­come the out­right owner if a deal is con­cluded, although an agree­ment has not yet reached.

The po­ten­tial exit of Danu from the Mer­can­tile group, whose seven out­lets also in­clude the Ge­orge and Opium, would be seen as a sur­prise move within the boom­ing Dublin pubs sec­tor. The Mer­can­tile Group emerged in May from a long-run­ning dis­pute be­tween for­mer share­holder Frank Glee­son and his fel­low in­vestors, which re­sulted in three sep­a­rate le­gal ac­tions.

Those court cases were all struck out in May, af­ter a wide-rang­ing agree­ment be­tween both sides which saw Mr Glee­son exit the group with con­trol of two restau­rants and a bar in Dublin that were once part of Mer­can­tile.

Danu is ex­pected to fo­cus in­stead on ex­pand­ing its US steak­house chain, Smith & Wol­len­sky. EMI-MR is a co-in­vestor of Danu’s in a S&W out­let in Lon­don, while Mr Re­gan is a mi­nor­ity in­vestor with the Ir­ish firm in S&W in the US. Those on­go­ing busi­ness re­la­tion­ships are un­af­fected by the talks in Dublin.

Danu is plan­ning to open a new 250-seat S&W res­tau­rant in Welles­ley, near Bos­ton, ac­cord­ing to US hos­pi­tal­ity trade jour­nal re­ports this week. Eater Bos­ton mag­a­zine said a new S&W will open on the site early next year.

Mean­while, Danu closed its S&W out­let in Las Ve­gas at the be­gin­ning of sum­mer, and is cur­rently look­ing for a new premises there. The in­vest­ment group also op­er­ates S&W out­lets in other US cities such as New York and Chicago.

The Mer­can­tile Group, mean­while, is con­tin­u­ing with an ex­ten­sive in­vest­ment plan at its Dublin nightspots.

Se­quana Man­age­ment, a com­pany linked to the Mer­can­tile Group, ap­plied this month for plan­ning per­mis­sion to re­vamp Cafe en Seine.


Cafe en-Seine, Daw­son Street: part of the Mer­can­tile pub group.

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