Carphone boss linked to Pizza Express job

Restaurant chain Pizza Express could be led back to the UK stock market by one of the co-founders of Carphone Warehouse, it was reported today.

Restaurant chain Pizza Express could be led back to the UK stock market by one of the co-founders of Carphone Warehouse, it was reported today.

David Ross, who helped turn Carphone Warehouse into a major force on the high street, is understood to be chewing over an offer to become chairman of Pizza Express and ASK owner Altia Holdings.

It comes as investment bank Merrill Lynch conducts a strategic review of Altia that is expected to result in either a flotation or refinancing, according to The Times.

Talks between Mr Ross and private equity firm TDR Capital, which controls Altia, are believed to have been going on for several weeks.

Earlier this month Mr Ross sold shares worth £10m (€15m) in Carphone Warehouse, which he set up with chief executive Charles Dunstone 16 years ago.

TDR bought Pizza Express, which has around 300 outlets in the UK, for £278m (€419m) in partnership with Capricorn Ventures in June 2003.

Pizza Express's sister company Milano operates six outlets in the Republic of Ireland - three in Dublin and one each on Cork, Limerick and Galway.

The TDR deal was followed by a deal for the 180-strong chain of restaurants trading as ASK or Zizzi in 2004, enabling TDR and Capricorn to enhance its purchasing power and strip out costs.

Like-for-like sales figures released earlier this year showed that Pizza Express was enjoying double-digit percentage growth.

Autumn is seen as the most probable date for a stock market return, with Pizza Express likely to have a value of between £800m (€1.2bn) and £1bn (€1.5bn) including debt.

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