Issa bros’ EG Group buys £100m Leon Restaurants

Blackburn-based petrol station and convenience store giant EG Group, owned by the billionaire Issa brothers, announced it has acquired the British fresh fast food restaurant chain Leon Restaurants Limited — with analysts saying the deal is worth about £100 million.

“Founded by John Vincent, Henry Dimbleby and Chef Allegra McEvedy in 2004, Leon created the category of ‘naturally fast food’, changing people’s expectations of what was possible in quick service restaurants,” said EG Group.

“The company has been the pioneer in creating a healthy menu that tastes good and is kind to the planet, driven by a passion to help everyone eat and live well. 

“With an extensive network of over 70 restaurants, Leon has 42 company-owned restaurants operated on leasehold locations, with a particularly strong presence in London as well as other large cities across the United Kingdom.

“In addition, it has 29 franchised sites at key strategic transport hubs (mainly airports and train stations) across the UK and five other European markets, principally The Netherlands.

“Leon has also made itself accessible to consumers at home and generates significant revenue from its branded cookbooks, own brand groceries and provision of home delivery ready meals.”

Privately-held EG Group was founded with a single petrol station in Bury as Euro Garages by the Issa brothers and has grown fast around the world through a series of debt-fueled deals.

The Issa brothers and TDR Capital recently completed the acquisition of Leeds-based Asda from Walmart for an enterprise value of £6.8 billion.

EG Group already operates over 700 foodservice outlets in the UK and Ireland.

EG Group co-founders and co-CEOs Mohsin Issa and Zuber Issa said: “Leon is a fantastic brand that we have long admired.

“As established entrepreneurs in the foodservice retail market ourselves, we have a huge admiration for the business that John and the Leon team have built over the years, and firmly believe that their culture and values closely align with our own.

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

“EG Group continues to identify innovative partnerships and acquisitions that complement our existing consumer offer and enable us to stay at the forefront of consumer trends, particularly in foodservice.

“Our equity investment in Leon is to strengthen our own participation in the fast-growing contemporary foodservice segment.

“This acquisition aligns with our commitment to being a committed foodservice operator globally, delivers financial benefit to our underlying business, and supports broader commercial strategies to be able to better realise further growth opportunities.”

Leon CEO John Vincent said: “In some ways this is a sad day for me, to part company with the business I founded 17 years ago in Carnaby Street.

“But I have had the pleasure of getting to know Mohsin and Zuber across the last few years.

“They have been enthusiastic customers of Leon, going out of their way to eat here whenever they visit London.

“They are decent, hard-working business people who are committed to sustaining and further strengthening the values and culture that we have built at Leon, a business that has my Dad’s name above the door.

“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.

“Thousands of people have been part of creating Leon experience.

“Each has left their mark, and I would like to thank everyone inside Leon, our partners and suppliers, and our guests who have visited us around 200 million times so far.

“We have tried hard, done some good things, made a healthy amount of mistakes, and built a business that quite a few people are kind enough to say that they love.”

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Mark McSherry
Dalriada Media LLC sites are edited by veteran news journalist Mark McSherry, a former staff editor and reporter with Reuters, Bloomberg and major newspapers including the South China Morning Post, London's Sunday Times and The Scotsman. McSherry's journalism has also appeared in The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Independent, The New York Times, London's Evening Standard and Forbes. McSherry is also a professor of journalism and communication arts in universities and colleges in New York City. Scottish-born McSherry has an MBA from the University of Edinburgh and a Certificate in Global Affairs from New York University.