Indian-origin billionaire brothers buy UK fast food chain Leon

London: Indian-origin billionaire brothers Mohsin and Zuber Issa have acquired a popular British fast food chain, Leon, as part of what they described as their goal to grow their foodservice operations in Britain.

The Issa brothers, whose parents moved to the UK from Gujarat in the 1970s, own the Euro Garages chain of petrol stations as part of their EG Group business.

Last year, they acquired leading UK supermarket chain Asda from US owners Walmart as part of the strategy to expand their non-fuel business.

Leon, Founded by John Vincent, Henry Dimbleby and chef Allegra McEvedy in 2004, pitches itself in the category of naturally fast food with a focus on creating a healthy menu that tastes good, in a sustainable way. The acquisition is said to be worth an estimated 100 million pounds.

Leon is a fantastic brand that we have long admired. As established entrepreneurs in the foodservice retail market ourselves, we have a huge admiration for the business that John and the Leon team have built over the years, and firmly believe that their culture and values closely align with our own, said Mohsin and Zuber Issa, co-founders and co-CEOs of the EG Group.

The acquisition of Leon presents EG Group with a fantastic opportunity to further develop the menu offer, the various concession formats including drive-throughs, and will enable us to significantly build on the existing network by exploring opportunities across our own sites along with other strategic locations, they said.

With an extensive network of over 70 restaurants, Leon has 42 company-owned restaurants operated on leasehold locations, with a strong presence in London as well as other large cities across the UK.

In addition, it has 29 franchised sites at key strategic transport hubs (mainly airports and train stations) across Britain and five other European markets, principally the Netherlands. Leon has also made itself accessible to consumers at home and generates significant revenue from its branded cookbooks, own brand groceries and provision of home delivery ready meals.

In some ways this is a sad day for me, to part company with the business I founded 17 years ago in Carnaby Street (London).

But I have had the pleasure of getting to know Mohsin and Zuber across the last few years. They have been enthusiastic customers of Leon, going out of their way to eat here whenever they visit London, said John Vincent.

“They are decent, hard-working business people who are committed to sustaining and further strengthening the values and culture that we have built at Leon, a business that has my dad’s name above the door.

“Mohsin and Zuber will not just be superb custodians of the Leon brand, through EG Group they have the vision, investment appetite, foodservice expertise and network scale to take Leon to many more people and places, he said, adding that he is confident the brand will flourish and expand its appeal outside of London under the new ownership.

Prior to the addition of the Leon store network, EG Group said it already operates over 700 foodservice outlets in the UK and Ireland of which 310 operate from standalone premises.

Despite the impact of COVID-19, the company said its foodservice business accounted for 46 per cent of the gross profit of the UK and Ireland division in 2020.

The group’s foodservice brand portfolio includes other third-party brands such as Starbucks, KFC, Burger King, Greggs, Sbarro, Cinnabon and Subway.

The Issa brothers added: EG Group continues to identify innovative partnerships and acquisitions that complement our existing consumer offer and enable us to stay at the forefront of consumer trends, particularly in foodservice.

Our equity investment in Leon is to strengthen our own participation in the fast-growing contemporary foodservice segment.

This acquisition aligns with our commitment to being a committed foodservice operator globally, delivers financial benefit to our underlying business, and supports broader commercial strategies to be able to better realise further growth opportunities.

Founded in 2001 by the Issa family, the EG Group employs over 44,000 people working across more than 6,000 sites across Europe, US and Australia.

 The brothers, Mohsin and Zuber, were each conferred with a CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List 2020, for their contribution to business and charity.