Vue Entertainment is to be sold by private equity group Doughty Hanson for £935m ($1.5bn), a move that Vue CEO Tim Richards has described to ScreenDaily as “very postitive”.

The UK and Ireland exhibitor is to be acquired by Canadian investment companies OMERS Private Equity and Alberta Investment Management Corporation. 

The deal is expected to close late July. CEO Tim Richards will continue to manage the business.

Doughty Hanson acquired Vue Cinemas in 2010 for £450m ($700m).

Over the last three years, Vue has increased the number of cinemas under its ownership from 70 to 146 and nearly doubled its screens from 678 to 1,321. 

Vue acquired Apollo Cinemas in the UK in May 2012, CinemaxX, Germany’s second largest operator in July 2012, and signed a deal to acquire Multikino, the second largest operator in Poland, last month. 

Speaking to ScreenDaily, Vue’s CEO Tim Richards described the sale as “a very positive thing for us.”

“This is a little bit earlier than we were considering, but OMERS finished in second place in 2010 [to Doughty Hanson, when they acquired the company] and we had maintained a very close relationship during that period. When the window opened for a pre emptive discussion, it felt like the right group and the right time.”

Canadian born Richards also said the sale, to two Canadian investors, was “very exciting for me personally, as it’s a return to my roots” but he stressed that Vue’s focus would still be “absolutely Europe. We think there is enough to keep us busy in the next three or four years.”

“We’ve doubled in size in the last 18 months and our plan is to do that at least again in the next 12 to 18 months. We are continuing to look at strategic opportunities in Europe, but we are only looking at cinema chains and assets that are similar in terms of quality,” added Richards who explained that he and the current Vue team would still be managing Vue Entertainment. 

“Like our previous financial partners, we will work very closely with them, but ultimately, we are running the company.”