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Leon bought by billionaire Issa brothers for £100m

The purchase follows EG Group's takeover of Asda and its attempts to close in on Caffe Nero

Leon, the fast food chain co-founded by Boris Johnson's food tsar Henry Dimbleby, has been snapped up by the billionaire Issa brothers in a deal which is due to net its founders a multi-million pound fortune.

EG Group, the petrol forecourts operator owned by Mohsin and Zuber Issa, said it has acquired the restaurant company from its biggest shareholders, Active Partners and Spice Private Equity.

The deal, which is estimated to be between £80m to £100m according to the Mail on Sunday, will crystallise a multimillion-pound stake held by Leon's co-founders John Vincent, Dimbleby and Allegra McEvedy.

Mr Vincent, who is married to newsreader Katie Derham and Leon's chief executive, remains the company's largest private investor and will get the biggest payout of the three. Mr Dimbleby and Ms McEvedy are no longer involved in the running of the business.

It is the latest deal in a buying spree by the brothers after they paid £6.8bn for Asda and attempt to wrest control of Caffe Nero from its founder Gerry Ford.

EG said it plans to open around 20 new Leon sites each year from 2022, adding that there was "significant potential" for Leon's non-restaurant products such as its ready meals which are sold in supermarkets. 

Leon operates 70 restaurants across the UK, with the majority in London, and also has sites in Oslo, Amsterdam, Dublin, Rotterdam and Gran Canaria. It was founded as a single site in Carnaby Street in 2004 and is named after Mr Vincent's father, Leon.

It comes after Leon launched a company voluntary arrangement, a type of insolvency procedure, last year, enabling it to renegotiate rents with landlords as its restaurants suffer a slump in office commuters during the pandemic.

The Issa brothers, who are estimated to be worth £3.56bn, built their empire by turning a single petrol station in the North West into a global network of fuel forecourts. 

The brothers from Blackburn have been ploughing investment into convenience stores and food concessions in recent years amid increasing demand for on-the-go food and drink. EG Group’s food businesses accounted for 46pc of the UK and Ireland division's gross profit last year. 

Mohsin and Zuber Issa said: "The acquisition of Leon  presents EG Group with a fantastic opportunity to further develop the menu offer, the various concession formats including drive throughs, and will enable us to significantly build on the existing network by exploring opportunities across our own sites along with other strategic locations."

Mr Vincent said: “Mohsin and Zuber will not just be superb custodians of the Leon brand, through EG Group they have the vision, investment appetite, foodservice expertise and network scale to take Leon to many more people and places.

"This is what Leon has always been built for and I am confident under the new ownership, the brand will flourish and have even greater appeal to a broader customer base, especially outside of London."

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