Jamie Oliver has no more money to prop up his ailing empire, the chef and entrepreneur has admitted.
Last September, his previously successful Jamie’s Italian restaurants veered on the edge of bankruptcy, with the chef forced to inject £13 million of his own savings into the business to stop it from going bust.
When asked by the Mail on Sunday whether he would be willing to do this again if his restaurants faltered in the future, he said: “I haven’t got any more [money]. I tried to do the right thing, I’ve never been paid by the restaurant group, I’ve always reinvested. My living was always the other side.
“So I could have just gone ‘do you know what? Let it go.”
He said that although he is not broke, he does not have the means to keep ploughing millions into the restaurant chain.
Oliver explained: “There’s a point where I can’t put the other side of the business at risk as well and the people who work there. The upside is I am now fully in control of the restaurant business. It’s fully owned by me. We’re getting on top of it and we’e learned lots of lessons.”
In an interview with the Financial Times earlier this year, the 43-year-old multimillionaire chef said the business “had simply run out of cash”.
“We hadn’t expected it. That is just not normal, in any business. You have quarterly meetings. You do board meetings. People [who are] supposed to manage that stuff should manage that stuff,” he said.
According to the FT, Mr Oliver was left with no choice but to instruct his bankers to inject £7.5m from his own savings into the restaurants, and a further £5.2m of his own money after that. This was topped up by around £37m of loans from HSBC and subsidies from other companies within the Jamie Oliver Group, including its publishing and media arm Jamie Oliver Holdings.
“I had two hours to put money in and save it or the whole thing would go to s*** that day or the next day. It was as bad as that and as dramatic as that,” he said.
However, the company has said it will be profitable again in a few years, with proper management.
John Knight, chief executive of the Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group, said: “We were opening too many restaurants, too quickly, in the wrong places.”
Mr Knight has promised Mr Oliver that within four years he will bring the chain “back to value” – in profit and clear of debt – and that the celebrity chef will get his own money back, “or at least most of it”.