Jeremy King is planning a third after the Wolseley drama

Several months after being fired from the company behind Wolseley, restaurateur Jeremy King recalls driving down Piccadilly past the London restaurant’s Golden Arches for the first time.

To the surprise of his wife, Lorraine Gurvitch, King didn’t even glance at the building next door to the Ritz he reinvented from a former car showroom into one of London’s most popular restaurants – before losing control after a brutal boardroom battle early last year.

“I said no, [I did not look] Because I’ve moved on, I must move on, King insisted, adding, “There’s no room for accusations or any of that stuff in life.”

The first tangible sign of the 69-year-old King’s transition fell into the email inboxes of his most loyal customers on Monday morning last week. announced plans to launch The Park, a 215-seat restaurant serving modern European cuisine just across the road from the redesigned entrance to stately Kensington Gardens, in April next year.

King also plans to return to London’s West End next year with the launch of two more restaurants in the upscale neighborhood, which has been home to most of his restaurants. He’s seen the former Grade II listed NatWest bank in Piccadilly – just across the road from Wolseley – according to three people familiar with the matter. King did not disclose the location of the West End but said the plans were at an “advanced” stage.

“It’s like a rebirth,” King added, commenting on his longest period of exile from London’s exclusive dining scene since he stopped running Caprice Holdings, the company behind Ivy Restaurant, in 2000. “I think he was. [French author] André Gide who said that every man should have three jobs. . . I actually feel like I’ve had three careers in hospitality, and I’m a different person now.”

Few restaurants have had a greater impact on London’s fine dining scene than King’s. His first project, Le Caprice, was a favorite haunt of Princess Diana throughout the 1980s. He then revived Ivy after buying it in 1990, making it synonymous with the glamorous shots of A-listers leaving its stained-glass entrance; Finally, he launched nine restaurants under the Corbin & King umbrella, starting in Wolseley in 2003.

Wolseley Restaurant Facade
Wolseley Restaurant in Piccadilly, which King lost control of last year © Akira Suemori / Alamy

“If the standard-bearing company in your industry falters, it makes you really nervous about what to say about the industry in general,” said Will Pickett, CEO of Hawksmoor steakhouse. “Jeremy’s strength, as he may be stronger than anyone else, is to create great, loud, big restaurants that people just want to hang out with.”

But despite King’s acumen for hospitality, he often had a difficult relationship with financial backers.

He is now tapping investors to secure nearly £7 million in financing for The Park. The majority of the investment will be channeled through the Institutional Investment Scheme, which offers tax breaks to UK investors and limits individual share ownership to no more than 30 per cent.

Among those in discussions with King about investing is New York-based Knighthead Capital Management, the investment firm that funded his failed bid to keep Corbin & King. King said he wanted to avoid having a “controlling partner,” stressing that he wanted to work with a wide range of investors, up to 20 in total, “in a very independent way.”

The restaurateur is still bruised from the boardroom saga that led to his sacking in April last year of Wolseley owner Delaunay Corbin & King, which he co-founded in 2003, adding that he wouldn’t dine at Wolseley because it would be “uncomfortable for everyone”.

Thai hotel conglomerate Minor International, which already owns 74 per cent of Corbin & King, has pushed the restaurant group into management, citing unpaid loans of £34m. A bidding war ensued for the entire company, and King lost.

All of King’s business relationships have been “painfully” created to ensure he retains control. “But that doesn’t mean that people don’t think they have control and of course often the rules of global finance,” he added.

There have been other bankruptcies. Minor originally acquired the stake in 2017 to replace private equity group Graphite Capital, with which King had a difficult relationship. Grosvenor Estate decided to part ways with Corbin & King in 2018 when they put the Beaumont Hotel lease back on the market as the company suffered from slow trading and high rents. Less than a year after his first venture, Le Caprice, with business partner Chris Corbin in 1981, King was forced to swap his original investors for his parents.

Another restaurateur noted: “Jeremy has never particularly enjoyed having investors, whether multiple or single.” “For all the great things he’s done for restaurants and in restaurants, I wouldn’t say he kind of likes being CEO of a company.”

King defended his record in running the business, but acknowledged that he and Minor had struggled with competing visions. “The lesson is that we didn’t . . . agree on the company’s future close enough . . . so we were at odds a bit,” he said, adding that the pandemic had “pushed us apart rather than bringing us together.”

His success rests on his knack for picking the right spots and creating buzz around them that attracts everyone from CEOs to celebrities to bankers. River Café owner Ruth Rogers said King creates places where “you simply want to go — whether it’s sitting for five minutes or five hours.”

King now spends most of his time working on the interior design plan for The Park, looking for a chef for the project and beginning to craft his menu. The 6,100-square-foot ground floor venue in the new glass building, built by real estate developer Fenton Whelan, will be a “21st century” in the style of the grand café King is associated with.

He is optimistic that the food and drink inflation, which has blighted the restaurant industry over the past year, is “abating” and that demand for fine dining remains.

“The restaurant business will overcome these problems,” he added. “Restaurants are very important in culture: there is no literary, artistic and revolutionary movement that did not start in a great restaurant or café. I think the industry will always resist any attacks made on it.”

In an email to clients last week, King described his exit from Corbin & King as “more of a beginning than an end.” “Ah, how I miss you,” he wrote. “It has been a long time coming but I hope you will experience the benefits of my forced stay and what I learned in my time away. I am determined to be a better restaurateur, business owner and friend – and I look forward to seeing you.”

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