What IS it we don't know about Caffè Nero? They have a Costa on Coronation Street, every blind child can draw the Starbucks logo, but who has ever been known to say, "Meet you Caffè Nero for a coffee. Delicious."
On Monday the NTI newsroom reported a bold move by the new Asda owners, Mohsin and Zuber Issa, to buy the chain and pay all landlords the rent they were owed in order to stave off a very pending CVA (as in, that afternoon ...), but the owners rejected the bid. In a statement on Monday evening a rather chatty and recalcitrant Caffè Nero said the “clear intention” of the bid was “to disrupt the CVA process currently under way as a precursor to opportunistically acquiring the company at a later date”. Er, yes, that is how this all works. They didn't even want to sit down over a decent Americano from Starbucks and think about it.
Gerry Ford is Nero Holdings' controlling shareholder and he has agreed to put his hand deep in his pocket and set up a £5 million fighting fund as landlords circling his front door are gnashing what teeth they have left, demanding crazy things like 'payment of what they are owed'. So, what do we know of Mr Ford? We know he is an American who has spent 70 per cent of his life in Europe; we have read that he has a passion for 'culturally authentic cafés' (but we have no idea what that actually means, and could gather no clue from the rather dingy interior of the Nero on Kings Street in Huddersfield) and from a recent photo of him it appears he is no stranger to a large slice of carrot cake. Ford was keen to stick to his guns and make Nero a premium independent, not a mass market brand and had the smart idea of ensuring each shop was profitable before moving onto opening another.
However, 2020 has not been kind to coffee shops, the casual dining sector and preened, over-stuffed self-important retailers and it appears the owners of Caffè Nero would receive little for their equity under the EG Group bid by the Issa brothers. (This is probably at the root of Ford and fellow shareholder Ben Price rejecting the offer.)
Caffè Nero was back to the microphone to explain more about its position. It said : "The fund, if required, would help ensure the survival of the business and protect creditors until more normal trading conditions prevail where they will benefit from the agreed turnover-based rent structure."
"How long may that be?", we asked from the back.
"Two cappuccinos, a skinny macchiato, cheese toastie and BLT," came the riposte, which sounded a lot like an avoidance of the question and the filling of an order to us.