Magnier and McManus are poised to offload Castlebeck

Tom Lyons

Partnerships in Care, the private equity-backed British healthcare chain, has emerged among the frontrunners to acquire Castlebeck, the scandal-hit care home group owned by some of Ireland's richest men.

Former Kerry Group chief executive Denis Brosnan's Swiss-based investment firm Lydian Capital owns Castlebeck, and its backers include JP McManus, John Magnier and Dermot Desmond. Castlebeck ran the Winterbourne View private hospital in England, which was shut down last year after a BBC Panorama programme uncovered a regime of bullying and abuse of patients that led to 11 former members of staff admitting to criminal offences of neglect or ill-treatment.

Castlebeck was bought by Lydian Capital Partners, for £255m (€316m) in 2006, and it was put up for sale in the wake of the scandal. The group's bankers, led by RBS, are supportive of offloading the group, which had borrowings of £431m at the end of 2010, made up of £223m owed to its banks, and £200m owed on investor loan notes. The price Castlebeck is sold for is expected to be at a discount to its borrowings.

The group has 20 care homes in England and Scotland and employs 2,000 people. Its owners appointed Sean Sullivan, a turnaround expert, last year to prepare the group for sale and improve its standards of patient care.