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Pittman Has His Eye On Hard Rock Café Chain

LONDON (CelebrityAccess MediaWire) – The Financial Times is reporting that Robert Pittman is understood to be among the potential bidders for Hard Rock Cafe, the restaurant chain owned by Rank, the UK leisure group.

The next round of bids is due in the second week of November for the Hard Rock business, which could fetch about £500m ($950,000,000).

It is believed that Mr. Pittman, former chief operating officer of AOL Time Warner, later renamed Time Warner, is interested in buying the chain using Pilot Group, his investment vehicle.

Mr. Pittman's career includes a stint running the Six Flags amusement park group, as well as a background in the music industry during which time he was credited with devising the slogan "I Want My MTV".

Rival bidders for Hard Rock are likely to include Permira and TDR Capital, the UK private equity groups, and Apollo, a US buy-out firm.

The Hard Rock business is mostly US-based and it is considered likely that the current auction will attract a bid from at least one US trade buyer.

It consists of 121 cafes, of which 68 are operated and the rest franchised.

There are also four Hard Rock hotels and two casino-hotels.

The sale of the Hard Rock chain continues an ongoing disposal process at Rank which, when completed, would see it refocus as a casino and bingo operator.

In July, Rank said the Hard Rock chain was entering a new phase of its development as it sought to expand in the restaurant, casino and hotel sectors, and Rank had therefore decided to assess whether it should remain within the group.

It hired Merrill Lynch, the investment bank, to run a strategic review that has culminated in the current auction.