Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver has stepped in to salvage his Australian Jamie's Italian restaurant franchise chain, taking it over from failed hospitality company the Keystone Group.
Keystone's receiver Morgan Kelly said it was an "ideal outcome" for the Naked Chef's six Australian franchises, which include Jamie's Italian Sydney, Perth, Canberra, Brisbane, Adelaide and Parramatta.
The buy-back decision by the star chef, who has built an empire from being an apprentice cook in his dad's pub in Essex, Britain, comes after Keystone was placed into the hands of Mr Kelly from Ferrier Hodgson in June when it failed to renegotiate an $80 million loan with its financiers, the private equity group KKR and Olympus Capital.
Keystone also operates a range of pubs in Sydney including Bungalow 8, Cargo Bar, Gazebo, Kingsleys Woolloomooloo, Manly Wine, the Sugarmill Hotel, The Rook, the Winery and Kingsleys Brisbane, all of which were sold to the Dixon Hospitality group last month.
Mr Kelly said Jamie Oliver's taking control of the restaurants "is an exciting outcome for the restaurant staff and patrons".
"The Australian Jamie's Italian franchises can now go from strength to strength under the direct management of the Jamie Oliver Group," he said.
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No price was disclosed and all the restaurant properties are leased.
In a statement from his London office, Mr Oliver said the Australian franchise, some of the best performing Jamie's Italian restaurants worldwide, were put up for sale when Keystone went into receivership over the summer.
"This was in no way a reflection on the performance or success of the restaurants," he said.
"The best news that could come out of the situation I've been placed in is for me to buy back the Jamie's Italian franchise. I believe in it and our Australian teams 100 per cent."
Mr Oliver explained that bringing Jamie's Italian in-house will also facilitate working more effectively across the other three pillars of his business empire in Australia (media, licensing and foundation).
"With 42 restaurants in the UK and over 25 internationally, Jamie's Italian prides itself serving delicious Italian classics with a Jamie twist. The food served in each of the Australian restaurants is made with the best, sustainable and locally sourced ingredients, including fresh pasta made on site, every day," the chef said.