British entertainment company Rank Group has agreed to sell its Hard Rock Cafe chain to an American Indian tribe for €725.3 million (£490 million).
There are Hard Rock outlets are in 45 countries. The business is being bought by the Seminole tribe of Florida, which already runs Hard Rock-branded hotels and casinos in Tampa and Hollywood. The Hard Rock business made a pre-tax profit of £35 million in 2005 and has 132 outlets worldwide. Rank will now focus on online and phone betting, casinos and bingo clubs. It has sold off a number of leisure businesses in recent years, including Butlin's, Warner Holidays, Odeon Cinemas, Pinewood Studios and pub chain Tom Cobleigh.
Rank said it would pass £350 million of the sale proceeds to shareholders via a special dividend. "Today's announcement sets a clear strategic course for Rank as a focused gaming business," said chief executive Ian Burke. "We have established clear plans to capitalise on the changes taking place in UK gaming." The 12,000-strong Seminole tribe has lands in Oklahoma and Florida, and its main business interests are in tobacco, tourism and gambling
The Florida Seminoles had relied on cattle, citrus fruits and federal loans for economic survival until the late 1970s, when they opened their first bingo hall and tax-free tobacco store. The tribe now runs two massive Hard Rock hotels and casinos on two of its reservations in Florida and has gaming businesses on three other sites. It is the only American Indian tribe never to have signed a peace treaty with the United States. (BBC News)