RPC, Mishcons and Rosenblatt advise as luxury London restaurant group Corbin & King gets auctioned off

12 Apr 2022 , 2:52am

Sale ends bitter, long-running battle for control of the beloved restaurant group between its original owners and majority investor, reports Anne Gallagher.

RPC advised the administrator and Mischon de Reya advised the buyer on the £67m auction and sale of London's Corbin & King Restaurants, known for establishments including the Wolseley, the Delaunay, Bellanger, Colbert, Fischer's and Zédel. Fleet Street firm Rosenblatt advised founders Chris Corbin and Jeremy King individually on the matter.

For nearly 40 years as business partners, Corbin and King created some of London's most iconic restaurants such as Le Caprice, where decades ago Princess Diana was a regular guest. That ended on 1 April when Thai-based hospitality company Minor International PCL acquired all of Corbin & King's assets following an auction of the business by administrators, FRP. In 2017, Minor became a majority investor when it bought 74 percent of the company for £58m. Despite that investment, the parties had a contentious relationship, including litigation, which continues even now. 

Earlier this year, Minor called on Corbin & King to repay some reported £34m of loans, forcing the company into administration. The administrator then held an auction for the company. King, backed by a New York investment fund, Knighthead Capital Management, submitted a bid to buy out his partner. But Minor outbid him, offering £67m for the remainder of the company’s equity, as well as its debt.

The RPC team representing was led Finella Fogarty, head of business restructuring and insolvency, supported by partner Tim Moynihan. The transaction team also included Will Beck, of counsel, and associate James Whelan from RPC’s restructuring and insolvency group. Commenting on the sale, Fogarty said: "We are delighted to have supported the FRP team and the joint administrators Geoff Rowley and Ian Corfield in running a competitive auction to drive value and to save Corbin & King."

Mishcons advised Minor on its winning bid for the restaurant group. Private partners Nick Davis and Janet Tobin led the team which included insolvency partners Raza Khan and David Leibowitz, private managing associate Jessie Bridgett, corporate managing associate Lydia Kellett and trainee Kiros Papaloizou. Employment consultant Margarita Elia advised on employment issues with managing associate Mark Stroud and insolvency associates Alexandra Baker and Matthew Scola providing contentious insolvency advice.

Davis said: "We are so delighted that our clients were able to prevail in a long-running dispute despite obstacles put in their way and they can now ensure that the Corbin & King Restaurant Group has a bright and profitable future. We are pleased to have played a part in ensuring that outcome."

Rowley and Corfield, partners at specialist business advisory firm FRP, were appointed as joint administrators of Corbin & King at the end of January.

While Rosenblatt advised Mssrs Corbin and King indvidually on the auction, they have a history of representing the founders' company.  In 2017, the firm acted for the management team of Corbin & King, in connection with the sale of their shares in the Corbin & King group.  As part of that transaction, Rosenblatt also advised the team on their equity stake in Minor as the acquiring entity.

Earlier this year, Rosenblatt helped Corbin & King founders and senior management fight off a number of legal challenges in efforts to forestall administration.  In those matters, the Rosenblatt team was led by partner and deputy head of dispute resolution Simon Walton, firm founder Ian Rosenblatt and included associates Charlotte Woodward and Luther Kisanga.