Stephen Stone was not giving much away this morning when asked about the reported £350m-plus bid for Crest Nicholson by pizza and pub entrepreneur Hugh Osmond.

Osmond's listed Horizon vehicle is on the hunt for a deal after raising £420m earlier this year and the housebuilding sector has clearly caught his eye. There has been no significant deal activity since Barratt and Taylor Wimpey got their fingers so badly burned pre-credit crunch and many have hurried to say this could be the start of a new bout of consolidation as the market begins its uptick.

With the deal now firmly plastered all over the papers, Stone was playing his cards close to his chest, referring me to a bland statement that said the housebuilder was looking at several options to grow the business.

Moments earlier he had said: "I'll get you a statement across. I promise it won't be one of those bland ones."

He said it with a chuckle and his light-hearted mood perhaps told the story of a boss hoping to have his shackles taken off.

It is widely acknowledged that Stone is not happy with the constraints of being owned by a Lloyds-led syndicate of about 40 banks, which can't be easy when you are itching to cut some deals to get the housebuilder back to its old self.

When asked about his exit route last year in an interview Stone was similarly coy, offering a "no comment" and knowing smile when asked if any private equity houses had been knocking on his door.

Now that news of Osmond's interest is in the public arena you can bet a few PE houses will be digging their calculators out again. Bidders could even include the listed housebuilders with the capacity and appetite, which basically means Persimmon. Or Galliford Try should it flog a chunk of its construction business to focus on the first passion of boss Greg Fitzgerald - housebuilding.

Whoever his new benefactor turns out to be, Stone will already no doubt be dusting the cobwebs off his cheque book.

PS - With regards to media reports that Osmond also met with the management of Lloyds-owned retirement housebuilder McCarthy and Stone, one source close to the situation said there was a phone call "some time ago" from Horizon that never went any further and that McCarthy's management never met Osmond or his team.