OLI Norman, the Glasgow-based entrepreneur who owns the itison deals website, has taken full control of a company which owns some of the city’s best-known pubs, including The Griffin.

Mr Norman has bought business partner Stephen White out of a venture the pair set up when they acquired the historic Sloans in the Argyll Arcade in 2010.

The deal, which has seen Mr Norman acquire Mr White’s 50 per cent stake in the business, valued the company at more than £15 million.

After embarking on their first venture nine years ago, the duo amassed a collection of landmark Glasgow outlets, acquiring the Belgian-themed Brel in the west end for £1m in 2013, before adding The Griffin and Maggie May’s in 2016.

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The portfolio now stands at seven outlets following the recent addition of Epicures of Hyndland, the neighbouring Nick’s Italian Kitchen, and the newly-launched Jacques in Finnieston, and employs more than 200 staff.

Asked why the two entrepreneurs had decided to go their separate ways, Mr Norman said: “We have had a really great partnership, [but] we are both at different stages in our business life cycles.

“I think Stephen felt it was a natural point for him to sell up and go and do his own thing, and for me to continue on my own growth trajectory. There was nothing more than that – it was just a timing thing.”

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Mr Norman, who funded the deal privately, admits that the current trading backdrop is challenging. But, having invested heavily with Mr White to bring the outlets up to a high standard, said he is confident there will always be a market in Glasgow for quality bars, “no matter how tough” the economic conditions become.

He said: “I think the future is really uncertain with the whole economy. The best you can do is knuckle down and try and make your business as efficient but also as exciting as possible. Consumers will always, particularly in a city like Glasgow, want to enjoy themselves, regardless of the financial times we live in.”

Mr Norman added: “There are still opportunities for growth in a really challenging environment.”

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The entrepreneur left the door open to further acquisitions but his immediate priority is to refurbish two of the most recently acquired outlets, Epicures and Nick’s, having recently revamped Jacques. He plans to ensure the group’s outlets are “all where we want them to be” before dipping his toes back into the acquisition market. There are no plans to expand beyond the company’s native Glasgow.

Despite selling his stake to Mr Norman, Mr White retains a strong interest in the Glasgow licensed trade, as the owner of Blackfriars and Munro’s. He is the founder of the Scottish Gin Society and plans to create a body that would offer protection to the many small businesses now producing the spirit in Scotland. He has also registered the names The Scottish Spirits Society and The Scottish Spirits Association as trademarks.

Mr White said: “Oli and I have complemented each other very well and the growth of the business is something we are both extremely proud of. We’ve achieved strong, sustained growth in a very competitive market, and I felt that it was the right time to sell my share of the business to Oli and move on to my next venture.

“I’ve got some very interesting opportunities which I’m keen to take forward in the coming months. Oli will undoubtedly continue the group’s expansion and I’m excited to see what he does next.”

Meanwhile, Mr Norman said itison, which employs 70 staff across offices in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee, Newcastle and Manchester, is continuing to expand. Future plans include launching a charity offshoot, and expanding further geographically.