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Magnier and McManus take hold of reins at Wellness


John Magnier of Coolmore Stud

John Magnier of Coolmore Stud

John Magnier of Coolmore Stud

Racing tycoon John Magnier and his buddy JP McManus have taken control of Wellness Foods, the British-based high-end food business bulked up by former Kerry boss Denis Brosnan during the boom.

Jersey firm Erbium, which is linked to the lads, has assumed the ownership of stakes held by Bank of Ireland and AIB, following a deal inked just before Christmas.

Denis Brosnan's Lydian Capital, which is backed by Magnier and McManus, bought Wellness for around €50m in early 2006 and embarked on a buyout blitzkrieg to assemble a portfolio of upmarket and expensive brands - including Rowse Honey and sloaney muesli maker Dorset Cereals.

Wellness also splashed out on the Grove posh fruit juice brands and the Stream Foods fruit bowl firm.

Irish banks funded this buy-out spree. However, as markets turned and heavily geared businesses gasped, Wellness became quite unwell.

Wellness embarked on a financial boot camp to get back into shape again. Allied Irish Bank and Bank of Ireland became shareholders following a debt-for-equity swap in late 2009.

Wellness had €156m in senior debt due to Bank of Ireland and AIB at the end of 2012.

Bank of Scotland (Ireland) was also a lender. It remains a small shareholder.

Erbium injected around €84m into the firm as part of the refinancing and debt reduction. Wellness also dropped a few pounds as it slimmed down.

Some of its expensively assembled baubles were sold. Last year ABF spent €62m to buy Dorset Cereals after a bidding war with Kelloggs and Weetabix. Wellness had spent €75m buying the cereal firm in 2008.

Wellness also sold Rowse Honey to the Seamus Fitzpatrick-backed Valeo Foods, eight years after buying it for €85m.

Having tidied up its balance sheet and paid off the banks, Wellness is looking decidedly more pink-cheeked. Magnier and McManus have a long history of not backing losers.

Ardagh linked with €3bn Verallia

Paul Coulson's Ardagh has been linked with a move for €3bn glass bottle firm Verallia, which is being sold by French materials group Saint-Gobain.

Ardagh spent €1.7bn buying Verallia's US operations in 2013.       

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JP Morgan and BNP Paribas have been appointed to sell off the European glass firm, which makes Dom Perignon bottles and Nutella jars. Private equity groups Carlyle, Bain, Blackstone, Permira and CVC are all said to be interested in buying the firm.       

Ardagh is edging towards a €2bn US IPO later this year, with a deal for Verallia seen as transformative.


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