Jobs safe as pizza chain buyer found

THE 400 jobs put at serious risk, before Christmas, because of the Four Star Pizza chain going into examinership, have been saved with a buyer for the company being found.

It was announced yesterday, that the Bray-headquartered company — which currently has 37 franchised outlets operating around the country — is to be purchased, pending formal High Court approval, by Gonville; an investment vehicle owned by entrepreneur and hotelier, Michael Holland, who owns the Fitzwilliam Hotel, St Stephen’s Green, Dublin.

A short statement, released yesterday on behalf of Gonville, said that a key element in the company’s decision to purchase Four Star was “the ability of the company to repudiate the leases of the franchisees through the court, which were then re-negotiated on better terms.”

Relatively little is known about what plans Gonville now has for the Four Star Pizza business, but the 400 people employed by the chain will be retained and all its outlets are expected to remain trading. A spokesperson for Gonville said the company will announce further details on its future plans and investment for Four Star following the anticipated acceptance of the examiner’s scheme of arrangement by the courts next Tuesday.

Yesterday’s statement confidently said that “the future of the Four Star Pizza franchise in Ireland has been secured following the decision of Gonville to purchase the Irish and UK franchise rights.”

Four Star’s existing holding company — Zowington — applied for High Court protection from creditors last November, with an interim examiner being appointed soon after.

The company — which was founded in the late 1980s by entrepreneur, Anne O’Leary — sought the action due to the difficulty, on behalf, of franchisees in meeting rental payments and the general downturn in the economy.

The likes of National Irish Bank (which is owed nearly €5m by the company) and the Revenue Commissioners are amongst Four Star’s main creditors; while a printing company and an ingredients supply firm are also owed money.

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