UK arm of O'Briens sandwich chain enters administration
THE UK business of the O’Briens sandwich chain has been placed into administration as franchisees struggle to pay their rents.
Cameron Gunn of London-based advisory practice ReSolve Partners has been appointed administrator of the UK arm, which trades from 109 outlets.
Administration is the UK equivalent of examinership, and is geared at rescuing firms.
In a statement issued yesterday, O’Briens founder and chairman Brody Sweeney said that many of the chain’s UK franchisees are struggling to pay their rent due to the very difficult trading conditions being experienced there. This in turn is putting pressure on Sweeney’s Dublin-based company, as it holds the head leases on most of the outlets in the UK chain.
Mr Gunn told The Irish Times that “it is very much business as usual in the UK”, adding that “Ireland remains untouched” by his appointment. He explained that the UK sites will continue to be operated by franchisees “without any interruption from us”.
ReSolve Partners is now seeking a buyer for the property leases that O’Briens owns in UK. “We are confident that we will secure a buyer in the near future,” he said.
It is hoped that reduced rental terms can be agreed with the landlords who own these properties. “We are looking to renegotiate terms with landlords to make the leases more attractive to be taken on by purchasers,” Mr Gunn said.
The vast majority of the UK stores will remain open, although the exact number is unknown at present as it is subject to the outcome of these negotiations.
Mr Sweeney declined to comment as to whether similar action will have to be taken with O’Briens’ Irish business.
However, he said that trading conditions in Ireland are challenging and “if anything worse than the UK”.
There have been a number of closures in the Irish business since the start of the year.
The O’Briens outlet in Dundalk closed due to a “dispute with the landlord”, a spokeswoman for the company said.