OVG take under wings Rhubarb Hospitality


Oak View Group acquires Royal Ascot caterer Image: Coliseum GSVA

A British luxury caterer that feeds punters from the Royal Ascot (racecourse in Ascot, UK) to the Royal Albert Hall (concert hall in London) has been sold to a United States entertainment group backed by the American private equity company Silver Lake, which plans to use the brand to compete with outsourcing giants for lucrative contracts.

‘Financial Times’ stated that the Los Angeles (US)-based stadium operator Oak View Group (OVG) announced its takeover of Rhubarb Hospitality Collection recently, outlining plans to first roll out Rhubarb’s offering to its owner-operated concert venues and then to bid for third-party catering contracts for other venues.

London (UK)-based the Rhubarb Hospitality Collection is one of United Kingdom’s leading hospitality groups, creating and delivering premium event catering services, fine dining restaurants and iconic locations. It is an international premium Hospitality Collection specializing in luxury event catering, iconic restaurant dining and venue hospitality.

The OVG Oak View Group, LLC is an American Global Advisory, Development and Investment Company for Sports and Live Entertainment industries. Based in Los Angeles (US), it was formed on November 16th, 2015, by Tim Leiweke and his business partner, Irving Azoff. Leiweke is the company’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO).

Menlo Park, California (US)-based Silver Lake is an American global private equity firm focused on investments in technology, technology-enabled and related industries. Founded in 1999, the firm is one of the largest technology investors in the world.

‘Financial Times’ further stated that Oak View paid the Liechtenstein (country in Europe)-based Asset Manager LGT’s private debt team at least £100mn to buy the caterer according to people with knowledge of the deal, but they did not specify the exact amount.

Vaduz (Liechtenstein)-based LGT Group is the largest royal family-owned private banking and asset management group in the world. The LGT, originally known as the Liechtenstein Global Trust, is owned by the princely House of Liechtenstein through the Prince of Liechtenstein Foundation and led by its royal family members H.S.H.

Rhubarb has scooped up contracts in recent years to provide catering services for popular destinations including the Sky Garden, which sits atop London’s ‘Walkie Talkie’ building, and the Hudson Yards development in midtown New York (US).

Oak View will introduce Rhubarb’s services to its five arenas across the United States and five further venues that are under construction, including Manchester’s (UK) the 23,500-capacity Co-op Live Arena, which will become the United Kingdom’s biggest indoor concert venue when it opens next year.

As part of the expansion plans, Oak View also plans to use Rhubarb to build a mid-market catering offering that can compete with outsourcing giants such as Compass (British multinational contract foodservice company), Sodexo (management services company) and Delaware North (global food service and hospitality company) for contracts.

Tim Leiweke, Oak View’s Chief Executive, said he believed Rhubarb could outcompete major outsourcers, which he said were “big and clunky and can’t get out of their own way sometimes. They are just bulk mass, whereas we walk in the shoes of our clients as we run our own arenas so we understand premium catering, because we’ve sold premium.”

Oak View is currently bidding for 10 large third-party catering contracts for sports venues and convention centres, mainly in the United States.

Six big outsourcers currently provide the lion’s share of food services for sports and music venues worldwide, offering broad-based catering options from concession stands to luxury hospitality.

Added Leiweke, “Not only do I think Rhubarb gives us a competitive edge, but I think its best in the business – and that’s based on 45 years of eating an awful lot of premium food and going to an awful lot of suites.”

Pieter-Bas Jacobse, Rhubarb’s Chief Executive, said the team at Oak View “understand our business model, and we all see best-in-class hospitality as essential to the value proposition between venues and their fans”.

Large caterers have increasingly leaned on their sports and leisure divisions for growth to offset a decline in workplace food service contracts due to the popularity of hybrid working following the pandemic.

In the six months to the end of March, Compass’s sports and leisure division grew faster than any other part of the company, generating global revenues of £2.1bn, up 45 per cent on the same period a year earlier.

However, Peter Backman, an industry analyst, said it may take a while to dethrone the major corporations, as catering contracts tend to be “difficult, complex, lucrative and very long-running”.

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