The Rank Group has confirmed the sale of Odeon Cinemas to private equity financier Cinven, which plans to combine the circuit with its own ABC Cinemas to create the UK's largest cinema chain.
Cinven paid $450m (£280m) for Rank's 75 cinemas following several weeks of speculation. Odeon chief Richard Segal has been appointed chief executive of the 132-site combined circuit which he will run with the rest of Odeon's management team. The head of ABC Cinemas, Barry Jenkins, will become deputy chairman of the board.
'This is an investment plan with allows significant investment into the combined estates of Odeon and ABC. In reality it's providing the funds to complete the work that has been ongoing in both operations,' Segal said.
'Over a reasonable period every cinema will be rebranded as an Odeon cinema. But this isn't a process that can happen overnight.'
Cinven spokesperson, Dick Munton, said: 'Cinven paid a fair price for a quality business'.
Rank has seeking to off-load its entertainment sector interests following a strategic review to focus on core businesses. The company is also reportedly in talks to sell UK film studio Pinewood Studios to former Channel 4 chief Michael Grade for $79.7m (£50m).
Odeon is the UK's market leader both in terms of size and box office share and has an equal combination of multiplexes and traditional cinemas - 460 screens in total. ABC, formed in 1996 through the Cinven-led $134m (£82m) buyout of the former MGM circuit, runs 183 screens. During 1999 however, both exhibitors closed several of their least profitable cinemas.