HORSE racing tycoons John Magnier and JP McManus have revealed that they're acting in concert with fellow equine supremo Derrick Smith, pooling their holdings in UK pub group Mitchells & Butlers as efforts are advanced by billionaire Joe Lewis to wrest control of the company on the cheap.
Mr McManus and Mr Magnier's investment vehicle Elpida confirmed to the stock exchange yesterday that it owned just under 21pc of Mitchells & Butlers, one of Britain's biggest pub groups.
But hours later, another statement, jointly issued by Elipda and a company called Smoothfield, notified regulators that between them they controlled 24.2pc of the group.
It is the latest twist in a long-running saga at the pub group, which operates about 1,500 outlets in the UK such as All-Bar-One and O'Neill's.
Earlier this month, Mitchells & Butlers (M&B) confirmed that in August, its single biggest shareholder -- Bahamas-based Joe Lewis -- had tabled an indicative offer for the group that was rejected by the board.
Mr Lewis owns 22.8pc of M&B and has offered £2.30 per share to acquire the business, valuing the equity at just under £1bn (€1.1bn).
But he's been rebuffed twice and is now mulling a further bid. Investors have criticised him for attempting to snap up the chain at a knockdown price that doesn't reflect its fair value.
Mr Lewis has been plotting his takeover battle from his super yacht moored on London's Thames.
Mr Magnier and Mr McManus have accumulated their stake in the pub business since 2007.
Mr Smith lives in the Bahamas, close to the exclusive Sandy Lane resort, which is co-owned by investors including Mr Magner and Mr McManus.
He once worked at betting chain Ladbrokes, manning its racecourse pitches, and branched out on his own in 1988.
He is thought to have made much of his fortune from currency trading, as did Mr Lewis. He's been closely linked with Mr Magnier's Coolmore stud.