BRIDPORT’S Bull Hotel and a 51 per cent stake in the Stable chain of pizza restaurants have been sold to Fullers in a deal worth £7.2million.

After eight years Richard and Nikki Cooper have agreed to hand their successful business over to the national family-run brewery chain.

Mr Cooper said the Fullers offer was a ‘good fit’ and would enable expansion of the successful pizza and cider restaurants.

He said: “The deal was signed on Monday and we are all very excited about it after eight years of being here it is obviously mixed emotions.

“It was an emotional day as we signed over the custody of the magnificent Bull, a building that we have painstakingly restored and that our children Teddie and Stanley have grown up in.

“But knowing that The Bull is going to a good company and will continue the success we have had over the last eight years helps. They approached us to invest in our Stable restaurants and we had come to a point where we needed some investors.

“They loved what we did and thought it was a very fresh and exciting. And we thought they were a good fit, being a family business too.”

Mr Cooper said Fullers said the company had been watching the Bull for a number of years and it wanted to add it to the business.

The Coopers have a month of hand over and then they will be able to focus on the expansion of the Stable – and plan to open another ten to 12 restaurants in the next three to add to the six already operating.

Mr Cooper added: “The Stable has been our main focus for the last couple of years anyway.

Fullers has bought a 51 per cent stake in the Stable restaurants and given the funds for the expansion.

Mr Cooper said: “They have very deep pockets.”

He added they had been approached by a number of investors over the years but had not wanted to join forces with venture capitalists.

He said: “We have turned a lot of people down in the past. Everybody is very interested in Bridport and the Bull Hotel has gained in popularity.

“We didn’t want to get involved with the cut and thrust of corporate venture capitalism but when Fullers came around we realised it was a perfect fit for us and our staff.

“They buy these going concerns and invest more money into them but they keep everything as it is.

“They are massive food fans and they nurture places and keep each place individual. Fullers were keen to emphasise that The Bull would be an excellent feather in their cap but they are buying it because of the way it is.”

The next Stable to be opened will be in Falmouth.