By Mark Kleinman. City editorA Cheltenham Gold Cup-winning jockey is about to toast a payday from the sale of his chain of dental practices that will catapult him into the ranks of Britain’s super-rich.
Sky News has learnt that Sam Waley-Cohen, the founder of Portman Dental, has struck a deal to sell a big stake in the company to Core Equity Holdings, a private equity firm.
The deal, which is likely to be announced later this week, is expected to value Portman at more than £300m.
It will involve Core Equity acquiring the stake in Portman that is owned by Livingbridge, another investment firm, as well as a chunk of Mr Waley-Cohen’s shares.
Sources said that the amateur jockey would remain closely involved with the business, both operationally and as a shareholder.
The acquisition of a big stake in Portman will be Core Equity’s first deal in the UK, with the firm having raised one of Europe’s biggest debut private equity funds last year.
Core Equity is understood to have seen off competition to buy Portman from rival bidders including Jacobs Holding, a Swiss family office which already owns Southern Dental, a group of NHS and private dental practices.
Portman was set up in 2009 by Sam Waley-Cohen, the amateur jockey who stunned the horseracing world by winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup seven years ago.
The company now trades from around 75 practices in the UK and is expected to use Core Equity’s investment as a platform to accelerate its expansion.
Portman is understood to have grown its profits substantially since its last accounts were filed at Companies House for the year to September 2016.
Mr Waley-Cohen was due to ride Walk In The Mill in this year’s Grand National but the horse was declared a non-runner after it was found to be lame.
The proposed sale of Portman follows Bupa’s takeover of the much-larger chain Oasis in an £835m deal in February last year.
A string of takeovers led by private equity firms such as Nordic Capital in the European dental market have led to the creation of a cluster of large-scale operators in the sector.
Another big player in the UK market is MyDentist, which is backed by the private equity group Carlyle and has about 450 practices.
The price paid by Bupa for Oasis surprised analysts, who had pencilled in a much lower valuation for the business.
Sources said that it had fuelled hopes at Portman that it could also attract a premium price in excess of £300m.
The auction of Portman, which did not respond to requests for comment, is being run by Moelis, the investment bank.
Livingbridge said in a statement issued when Sky News revealed plans for the sale process earlier this year: “We do not comment on market rumour and speculation.
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“Portman Dental Care is the fastest-growing privately led dental group in the UK and is well placed to build on the strong momentum it has generated in recent years.”
?A spokesman for Core Equity declined to comment.