Ex-Hearts boss sells firm to American food giant

FORMER Hearts football club chairman Chris Robinson yesterday sold his catering company, Heritage Portfolio, to American giant Centerplate in what is believed to have been a multi-million pound deal.

Chris Robinson has sold his catering firm. Picture: Neil Hanna

Robinson, who spent 11 years as chairman and chief executive at Hearts and who oversaw the rebuilding of its Tynecastle stadium, will step back from the day-to-day running of the firm following the deal but will remain as an “ambassador” for the business.

His fellow owner-managers – Ian D’Annunzio-Green, Alan Duff and Mark Miller – are all staying with the business.

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Centerplate – which has provided the catering at the inaugural balls for 30 United States presidents, 13 Super Bowl American football matches and the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver – will retain the Heritage Portfolio brand as the name for its outside events division.

Robinson and his fellow shareholders remained tight-lipped over the price Centerplate had paid for their company, which turned over £8.3 million in 2012 and posted a profit of £533,453, according to accounts filed at Companies House.

Duff described the deal as a “natural next step” for the company.

“We have collaborated with Centerplate’s UK division on various projects in the past and have had a joint venture arrangement with them for some time, so we have already established a strong rapport with their senior management team,” he explained.

D’Annunzio-Green added: “We will be expanding our business into England and further across Scotland, with the same dedicated team.

“In many ways it is business – but much better business – as usual.”

Heritage Portfolio was created in 2002 through the merger of Heritage Hospitality and Portfolio Catering.

The combined outfit received a royal warrant last year after catering for the 2011 wedding of the Princess Royal’s daughter, Zara Phillips, and former England rugby team captain Mike Tindall.

The caterer is best-known for supplying food to historic venues including the Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh, Musselburgh Racecourse and the Palace of Holyrood House. Archerfield Golf Club, Lennoxlove House and the National Galleries and Museums of Scotland are also listed among its big-name clients.

In April, Centerplate became the food supplier to football clubs including Dundee United, Hibs and Inverness Caledonian Thistle after taking over Stoke-on-Trent-based Lindley Group.

Lindley’s other clients include Leicester Tigers rugby squad, Spurs football club and film studio Warner Bros’ Harry Potter studio tour in London.

Following the Lindley deal, Centerplate grew its revenues to £660m and its global headcount to 35,000, allowing it to cater for 115 million guests last year at 350 venues.

Centerplate, which traces its roots back to 1929 and is now led by British-born chief executive Des Hague, provides the catering at American venues including Los Angeles Zoo, the Mercedes Benz Superdome in New Orleans and the San Francisco 49ers’ stadium.

Heritage Portfolio is the second Scottish company in as many days to fall prey to an American predator after New York-listed Marsh took over Aberdeen-based Central Insurance in a deal believed to be worth some £20m.