Tom Hoskins to be reborn on Internet

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Tom Hoskins, which has been a brewer and pub operator for over 100 years, is expected to be reborn as an Internet company.Its management has...

Tom Hoskins, which has been a brewer and pub operator for over 100 years, is expected to be reborn as an Internet company.

Its management has confirmed speculation that it is in talks to sell its Leicester brewery and most of its 18 pubs in the Midlands and the Cotswolds.

Chief executive Clive Watson is also planning to quit the business to set up an Internet-based company delivering gourmet dinners from a London bar to people's homes.

Tom Hoskins is believed to be in "exclusive talks" with Wiltshire pub operator Burns Leisure, which owns brewer Archers Ales.

Neither Burns Leisure, Tom Hoskins nor Watson would comment last week.

It is feared that Burns Leisure would have to transfer production from Leicester to its Swindon brewery, leading to closure or another sale of the Beaumanor Brewery.

The disposals would leave Tom Hoskins with few pub assets, turning it into little more than a cash shell.

This has led to speculation in the City that the company would be transformed into one of the new breed of high-tech companies known as "dot.coms".

The company is attractive as a cash shell since it is already listed on the Stock Exchange's Alternative Investment Market, removing the cost of a new flotation.

Nobody would comment on what areas the new Tom Hoskins would deal in, although it is likely it would decide to change its name.

It would mark the end of a turbulent history for the brewer, which has changed hands several times since being formed in the 1890s.

Watson, formerly of Regent Inns and Tup Inns, took over the helm last July and put the brewery on the market in February, saying the business would focus on being a London-based pub operator.

After his departure, he will continue to operate his pub concept, Bar + Kitchen, which opened in December in Waterloo, London.

He will work with TV chef Paul Bloxham, who is also involved with Bar + Kitchen, on the new venture, kitchentokitchen.com, which is to be launched in June.

He told last week's Panorama on BBC1: "We are looking at opportunities in the new economy, which could involve a dot.com.

"A lot of people are approaching us with ideas as well, so we are keeping our options open.

"Times change. Things have to move on, and I wish the people who buy the brewery the best of success but, for our shareholders, we want to go into the new economy."

His own separate venture involves preparing three-course dinners at Bar + Kitchen and delivering to customers who order over the Internet, with wines and cheeses also available.

Initially covering parts of central and South London, it would offer meals for £15 to £16 a head, plus a £5 delivery charge.

Related topics: Other operators

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