Lewis seeks out Irish tycoons in brewing battle

David Hellier
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JOE LEWIS has told associates he wants to meet JP McManus and John Magnier, his friends and fellow shareholders in Mitchells & Butlers, to enlist their support in his fight to take full control of the pub chain.

According to one source who was yesterday at a meeting on Lewis’s boat Aviva, the financier expressed his wish to meet McManus and Magnier “within 48 hours”.

However, an adviser representing Lewis’s vehicle Piedmont stressed no such meeting between the two parties had yet been scheduled.

Investors in M&B are concerned a joint approach from Lewis and the Irish tycoons – who own 22.8 per cent and 20 per cent of the leisure group respectively – could make it difficult for shareholders such as Standard Life, which has spoken out against the possible bid, to reject a low-ball offer.

Magnier and McManus have in the past denied they have been acting together with respect to their shareholdings in M&B – a view accepted by the Takeover Panel, which in January 2010 defended the pair from accusations they were trying to take control of the Harvester and All Bar One owner without making a formal bid.

But one source told City A.M. that Magnier and McManus both enjoyed hospitality aboard Aviva over the summer, reportedly joining Lewis on the superyacht for games of cards.

Bankers have speculated that Lewis, whose Piedmont vehicle announced a possible 230p per share offer for M&B on Monday, could offer a more or less equal shareholding in the new company to the two Irish investors if they decide to join his bid plans.