Leon maps out Scan­di­na­vian ex­pan­sion as in­vestor buys in

The Sunday Telegraph - Money & Business - - Business - By Ash­ley Arm­strong

LEON is tak­ing its sweet potato wraps and su­per sal­ads to Norway and Swe­den af­ter seal­ing a tie-up with a Nor­we­gian mil­lion­aire to ex­pand in the re­gion.

The healthy food chain plans to open around 20 sites over a pe­riod of five years, with the first restau­rant open­ing in Oslo as soon as the end of this year. The restau­rant will be the chain’s sec­ond over­seas move af­ter open­ing two out­posts in Am­s­ter­dam’s Schiphol Airport last year.

The push into Scan­di­navia fol­lows a meet­ing be­tween John Vin­cent, the Leon co-founder, and Jens Ulltveit­moe, who made part of his $400m (£311m) for­tune in oil-re­lated ven­tures be­fore sell­ing them al­most two decades ago to fo­cus on the re­new­able en­ergy in­dus­try.

Mr Ulltveit-moe’s com­pany, Umoe, which now runs more than 360 restau­rants and cafes in Norway, Swe­den and Denmark, is tak­ing an undis­closed stake in Leon as part of its agree­ment to open restau­rants across Scan­di­navia.

Mr Vin­cent said that the deal would help his am­bi­tion to make Leon the num­ber one in “nat­u­rally fast food”. In March, Leon sold a £25m stake to pri­vate eq­uity house Spice as part of its ef­forts to ac­cel­er­ate in­ter­na­tional ex­pan­sion.

It is un­der­stood that Leon is also close to sign­ing a deal for its first restau­rant in Amer­ica af­ter Mr Vin­cent and a col­league em­barked on a road trip last year on Honda Gold­wing mo­tor­bikes from Wash­ing­ton DC to Den­ver to iden­tify suit­able sites.

Last week it was re­vealed that Leon co-founder Henry Dim­bleby had stepped down from the restau­rant chain’s board as he fo­cuses on street food com­pany Lon­don Union.

De­spite this move, Mr Dim­bleby will re­main as a sig­nif­i­cant in­vestor in the busi­ness.

Healthy fast food chain Leon has un­veiled plans to open around 20 sites in Norway and Swe­den, with Oslo host­ing the first of them

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