Rank sell Hard Rock

British leisure and entertainment company Rank Group has finally sold their Hard Rock café chain to the American Indian tribe, the Seminole Tribe of Florida, for £490 million.

Rank Group has been willing to listen to offers since last July for the 35-year-old business and its sale follows the release of U.K household names such as Butlins holiday camps, Odeon cinemas and Pinewood film studios from the Rank portfolio. Rank now plan to focus solely on the gaming market, especially targeting the U.K as gambling laws become set to be more relaxed.

"Today's announcement sets a clear strategic course for Rank as a focused gaming business," said chief executive Ian Burke.

"We have established clear plans to capitalise on the changes taking place in UK gaming in order to generate sustained growth in profits and improvements in our return on capital employed," he added.

The Hard Rock brand made a pre-tax profit of £35 million in 2005 and has 132 outlets throughout the world including cafes, hotels, casinos and concert venues. Rank also announced that Peter Johnson, chairman of Inchcape, will succeed Alun Cathcart as chairman who retires next February.

Rank also confirmed that they would return £350 million to shareholders through a special dividend scheme, equivalent to 65 pence a share.

The 11,000 strong Seminole Tribe of Florida, who already operate Hard Rock brand hotels and casinos in Tampa and Hollywood, are the only American Indian tribe never to have signed a peace treaty with the United States.

The sale of Hard Rock may now encourage William Hill to approach Rank with a buyout offer, after speculation last week that the U.K bookmaker was interested in the company.

Editor, Jackpot.co.uk - 2006-12-07 11:05:35

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