YO! Sushi acquired by Quilvest

The UK ‘conveyor belt sushi’ chain has been acquired from its management and Primary Capital in a deal valuing the company at £51m.

Quilvest, a Luxembourg-based private equity firm originally founded to manage the assets of German-Argentine beer baron Otto Peter Bernberg, has acquired the Japanese food restaurant chain YO! Sushi in a deal valuing the company at about £51 million (€67 million, $102 million).

The Sushi restaurant chain, known throughout the UK for its iconic conveyor belts snaking through tables to deliver plates, was founded in London’s Soho neighborhood in 1997 by Simon Woodroffe, who later went on to be a dragon on the poplar British television show Dragons Den. The concept, in which diners pick and choose their color coded dishes from a rotating conveyor belt, caught on quickly. YO! Sushi now operates 30 restaurants in the UK and 11 abroad in Dubai, Kuwait, Dublin, Moscow and Kuala Lumpur.

Woodroffe sold a 60.5 percent stake in the company to private equity firm Primary Capital in 2003 for £10 million, maintaining a 22 percent shareholding. Primary, which made the investment through its second fund, had previously invested in other food and beverage chains such as Coffee Nation. Woodroffe is reportedly selling his 22 percent share to Quilvest for between £5 million and £10 million.

Quilvest partner Axelle Strain said the firm was planning to use its global presence to help the chain expand internationally, particularly in the United States. Quilvest has about $10 billion in assets under management and has offices in London, Paris, Zurich, New York, Dubai and Montevideo.