Memoirs expose Vaux collapse

From The Publican

20-Jun-2003

Related topics: Company & City News

Sir Paul Nicholson has lifted the lid on the destruction of the Vaux Brewery with the release of his memoirs Brewer at Bay.


The former chief executive and chairman of Vaux gives an explosive account of the demise of the once great North East brewer and pub operator.


The long-awaited book does not pull any punches. Mr Nicholson, a third-generation brewer of the founding family, lays the blame for the demise at the door of advisers and individuals.


He apportions blame largely to Martin Grant, who was chief executive for a brief time just before the company was broken up, and also advisers BT Alex Browne (BTAB).


In a chapter called "Death of Vaux" he writes: "The only idea he [Martin Grant] could come up with was we should close the breweries and buy from outside suppliers for our pub estate. The new advisers [BTAB] produced some specious, but to the non-executive directors mouth-watering, numbers of what this might achieve."


He later says of Mr Grant: "...it quickly became apparent that the new chief executive was very opposed to retaining the breweries and was prepared to use almost any means to frustrate their survival."


Against the wishes of Mr Nicholson, Vaux directors voted to close the breweries and sell some pubs based on projected income £15m higher than the next best option of a management buy-out.


Mr Nicholson questions the fact that BTAB was also advising Pubmaster, which eventually bought some Vaux pubs.


The last few chapters are filled with scathing one-liners such as: "If those responsible had shown a modicum of competence, 500 jobs would not have been wantonly destroyed in the depressed cities of Sunderland and Sheffield", and "what was a successful independent North East company has been smashed asunder".


Mr Nicholson concludes his account with a letter he received from Alan Ogden, a former public relations adviser to the company, who wrote: "I have only vaguely picked up on events at Vaux, but it did seem all a great shame.


"What struck me was that the values the company had worked so hard to instil and live up to - transparency, openness, believing in people, care of the community - all seemed to be sacrificed on the grubby altar of spurious shareholder value."


For a copy of the book, published by The Memoir Club, call 01388 811747. All profits go to charity.

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