North-west-based chef-restaurateur Paul Heathcote has sold the majority of his restaurant portfolio to Living Ventures, owner of the Gusto, Blackhouse Grill and Est Est Est brands.
The former two-Michelin-starred chef has sold five of his nine remaining restaurants to the group, which was founded by Tim Bacon and Jeremy Roberts, for an undisclosed sum. They include three Olive Press sites in Manchester, Liverpool and Cheadle Hulme as well as Grado in Manchester and London Road in Alderley Edge.
The move comes just weeks after Heathcote was forced to close his Liverpool flagship Simply Heathcotes and the Leeds branch of his Olive Press group of restaurants.
The deal leaves the chef with four sites including his former two-Michelin-starred Longridge Restaurant in Preston, Heathcotes Grill & Bar in Clitheroe, which opens next week, and two Olive Press sites in Preston and Bolton. Heathcote is currently looking to sell the Bolton site.
Heathcote said the deal would allow him to concentrate on gaining recognition for a small group of restaurants.
"I have always said that at 50 I would change the way I worked. After nearly 35 years in the business I still have ambitions, including gaining Michelin recognition for Longridge," he said.
"I have known Tim Bacon, CEO of Living Ventures, for many years. He is a very good operator and has had great success in growing his two brands - Gusto and Blackhouse Grill - so I know the restaurants are in good hands."
Heathcote and Living Ventures have entered a licensing agreement over joint continued use of the Olive Press brand, with both parties set to decide on future branding of these outlets in due course.
"There is every chance that I will look to rebrand the Preston restaurant in the New Year but a final decision has yet to be made," added Heathcote.
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