The off-licence chain began courting potential buyers last summer and reported an enthusiastic response from a range of companies. Before Christmas it intimated that it was close to an agreement.
But marketing director Ian McLernon said this week: “Most parties proposing a takeover were looking at sale and leaseback afterwards anyway, so we thought we might as well do it ourselves.
“Sale and leaseback secures the future of the Unwins Group under the current management team. It means plans for the development of our Phillips Newman format can continue and that it’s business as usual.”
Industry sources claim Unwins pulled out of acquisition talks with favoured buyer French group Castel, which owns Oddbins, because it would not clearly define its terms.
Unwins is now rumoured to be close to a sale and leaseback deal with a major investment bank. Unwins’ property portfolio is valued at £32m, including 96 freeholds.
When the retailer announced plans in May to raise cash to invest in future development, sale and leaseback was proposed as one of the three ways of doing so. Selling off parcels of Unwins’ estate was also discussed, but a full-scale sell-off was the course that was actively pursued.