Duncan Bannatyne, the former Dragons’ Den investor, has revived plans to cash in on the growth of his hotels-to-gyms empire by hiring bankers to field offers for a stake in the company.
Sky News has learnt that Mr Bannatyne, one of the most prominent private business-owners in Britain, is working with DC Advisory on an attempt to sell a “substantial” minority shareholding in The Bannatyne Group.
Sources said on Thursday that the entrepreneur hoped to attract offers which valued the whole of his business at around £350m.
His plans to sell a stake in Bannatyne Group, which is positioned at the premium end of the health and fitness club industry, come just over two years after he abandoned a stock market listing of the business.
A fresh attempt to float the company is possible but unlikely at this stage, according to City sources.
Mr Bannatyne does not sit on the board of the group which carries his name, with regulatory scrutiny reportedly a factor in that decision ahead of its 2016 bid to float.
The businessman spent 12 series on the BBC investment show Dragons’ Den, investing millions of pounds in companies pitched to him and fellow entrepreneurs on the programme.
His leisure empire, which trades from 71 gyms, 46 spas and four hotels, is run by Justin Musgrove, its chief executive.
It is chaired by Alan Jackson, a veteran of the leisure industry who was appointed to spearhead Bannatyne Group’s listing.
This week, Sky News revealed that Mr Jackson had been awarded a 17% pay rise at Playtech, the gambling software-maker he chairs, within months of a huge shareholder revolt which saw the company’s remuneration report rejected by a majority of investors.
Employing more than 3000 people, Bannatyne is a significant private sector employer.
It said this year that it had been able to absorb “cost headwinds of national and living wage increases [and] the apprenticeship levy” to deliver a 57% increase in profits.
The business now has more than 210,000 members and said in May that it expected “significant further growth” this year.
In a statement issued in response to an enquiry from Sky News, Mr Musgrove said:
“The Bannatyne Group is considering a number of investment options to co-fund its aggressive expansion programme.
“There will be announcements later in the year.”
Bannatyne Group’s plans are understood to include a possible launch in European markets where the gyms sector tends to be led by low-cost operators, creating what Mr Musgrove has described as a gap for an affordable premium proposition.