City Diary — 19 August

By The PMA Team

- Last updated on GMT

City Diary — 19 August

Related tags City diary City pub company Chelsea f.c.

All the latest gossip and rumour from the City.

Lampard scores a real Pig's Ear

Last week, City Diary revealed that Joe Cole was the footballer who bought the Britannia in Bow last year for his investment portfolio. Help has now come from a source on revealing which Chelsea footballer had bought the Pig's Ear in Chelsea. Step forward Cole's former Chelsea team mate, Frank Lampard.

Tabloid errors scupper exposé

Ahead of an anticipated News of the World exposé on pubco pricing, Fair Pinters were convinced that pubco bosses would be choking on their croissants before attending Sunday morning service. In the event, the News of the Screws piece was hardly an ornament to journalism, with the wrong name given to the main source — it's Simon Clarke, guys, not Steve Clarke — and all sort of tortuous or plain untrue statements: "Punters are paying up to a pound more for their pints as brewery firms slap massive fines on landlords." Better luck next tabloid, fellas.

Thomas hits the dance floor?

A former Luminar nightclub in Peterborough, which has been closed for eight years, has been sold off an asking price of £1.5m. The former 5th Avenue Nightclub, in Laxton Square, Peterborough, has been sold by property consultant Budworth Hardcastle, but it is keeping schtum on the identity of the buyer. Spokesman Gavin Hynes will only say: "The offer came through about a month ago and has been accepted. It should open in the next three months." City Diary receives an excitable email from the local daily newspaper convinced the buyer is none other than 'Big' Steve Thomas, ex of the Luminar parish. Another day, another erroneous story involving the ebullient nightclub titan.

Time to hold off on the freehold

Diary was wondering whether Fair Pint firebrand and Mitchells & Butlers franchisee Karl Harrison had tabled a bid for his pub after M&B declared itself open to offers. He says: "I've been in discussion with M&B for three years over (my) freehold. I'm glad they didn't accept the offer last year as it would be too high now. All pointers are for further falls in value for pubs, particularly out of London."

A little give, and a lot of take

Funny thing, pay. Can be divisive. Pub managers can get upset when senior management earn good bonuses while their bonuses are getting squeezed. One manager of a well-known managed company emailed Diary last week to complain that there seems to be an inconsistency of approach at his (or her) particular pub company (and asked Diary for anonymity for fear of disciplinary action). "Senior management have subjected us to a change in our bonus scheme, which makes it almost impossible, even with a double-digit increase in business, to achieve anything near previous bonuses. This year's total bonus pot between the whole pub group is a discretionary £250,000. Although delivering a double-digit increase in business with more bottom-line profit, it meant that in effect this year's bonus scheme took away 20% of my total package." Charming.

Shrugging off Sky high prices

Sky price increases have prompted a lot of teeth-gnashing. One managed company boss has a much more sanguine view of what to do in the face of increases — and it doesn't involve having a moan up. "You either piss — or get off the pot," he tells Diary.

M&B pubs about to be snapped up?

Market gossip suggests around 300 wet-led Mitchells & Butlers pubs are on the market through sector deal-broker Sapient Corporate Finance. Hard to imagine a trade buyer being interested, though, isn't it? Well, it's all eyes on Town & City Pub Company, which is having a fair degree of success at the moment with, er, wet-led pubs. Might be synergies in lumping the two estates together, Diary thinks.

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