Belfast Telegraph

Leon planning to open outlets in US following cash boost

Healthy fast food chain Leon is planning to launch in the US after receiving a £25 million cash injection from a Swiss private equity firm.

The restaurant group has secured backing from Spice Private Equity, which now holds a majority stake in the company alongside co-founder John Vincent and long-term investor Active.

Leon currently has 46 restaurants in the UK and two in the Netherlands, and the fresh investment will see the firm open its first outlets in the US in the second half of 2017.

Mr Vincent said: "To be successful Leon needs the right purpose, the right leaders and the right investors.

"To become the world's leading natural fast food company, we need partners who share the vision and can help make it happen.

"We are fortunate to have been approached by many potential partners.

"The decision to say yes to Spice was because of the high regard I have for the individuals of GP Investments, who manage Spice.

"I am also delighted that Active, our existing investor who has been so helpful to our growth, is participating in this fundraising too."

Spice is ultimately controlled by GP Investments, which is headed up by the Brazilian businessmen Fersen Lambranho.

Mr Lambranho is aiming to replicate the success of a previous investment in Brazilian steakhouse Fogo De Chao, which expanded into the US and is now listed on Nasdaq.

He said following the deal: "Leon is a disruptive fast-food model that was born in the UK but has an immense potential to become global."

Leon will follow in the footsteps of Pret, which is also planning to expand rapidly into the US and potentially list in New York.

According to accounts filed at Companies House, Leon raked in £36.9 million in revenues in 2015 and made an operating profit of £2.26 million.

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