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Punch boss Roger Whiteside warns on increase in pub disposals

By Michelle Perrett , 29-Jan-2013
Last updated on 29-Jan-2013 at 15:40 GMT2013-01-29T15:40:42Z

Punch boss Roger Whiteside warns on increase in pub disposals

The outgoing chief executive of Punch Taverns, Roger Whiteside, has warned that pub disposals could increase if regulation forces pub-owning companies to offer more free-of-tie leases.

Writing exclusively for the Publican’s Morning Advertiser, the boss of the 4,500-strong leased and tenanted pubco said many of the complaints about the
tied model have been “justified” but warned campaigners to “be careful what you wish for”.

Whiteside, who was crowned the most influential person in the Publican’s Morning Advertiser’s top 50 list last year, said: “Many of the complaints about the tied pub model have been justified and are being resolved but let’s not make the mistake of destroying the rental model for pubs.”

He warned that the Punch disposal programme has released thousands of free-of-tie pubs into the market but the “sad facts” are that only 60% of those newly free-of-tie outlets stay open as pubs.

“The economics of extracting tied pub buying terms from the brewers make it attractive to own pub freeholds and offer them for rent,” he said.
“If we remove that, then owning pubs to rent on a free-of-tie basis is economically far less attractive.

“So be careful what you wish for: if regulation forces pub-owning companies to free them from the tie, I predict pub disposals will increase and this will risk closing more pubs than even the combination of the duty escalator and supermarket pocket-money pricing have accomplished.”

In addition, he claimed that another contributory factor is that the volume of beer consumption in pubs has fallen by 45% since 1999, and continues to fall.
“In that environment, only those who can adapt will survive. When I joined Punch we owned 7,500 pubs. As I leave we are down to 4,500 and the disposals will continue until we reach our target of 3,000 core pubs.”

He also tells the PMA that he remembers getting a “frosty put-down” at his first British Beer & Pub Association council when he suggested that some Fair Pint campaigners “might have a point”.

Whiteside is set to leave Punch tomorrow to take up the role of chief executive at bakery chain Greggs.

  • 'Foundations for the future' - Read Roger Whiteside's article in full here .

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