Outgoing Punch chief executive on the future for Punch pubs

By Claire Churchard

- Last updated on GMT

Remarkable Punch publicans: pubs have a 'rosy future'
Remarkable Punch publicans: pubs have a 'rosy future'

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Following the news that Punch chief executive Duncan Garrood has decided to leave the business, after Patron completed its deal to buy the group's pubs, The Morning Advertiser gets the inside track on why he isn’t staying for the transition period and what the future holds for the group’s former pubs.

Garrood said that his exit won’t be a huge surprise​ for people in the industry who know what has been happening at Punch and the changes that were going on. “The acquisition of 1,900 Punch pubs by Patron signals a big change in the structure at Punch. Having stewarded it through this period and got to this stage, I felt I needed to take a view on whether to stay with a very different-looking company or move on to something new.

“I’ve worked continuously for about 40 years, so I’m taking a little break while I decide what my next step will be. There isn’t anything confirmed yet, but my intention is to take another full-time role. If that is within the pub industry that would be an honour.”

Staying for the six month transition period?

“I did think about staying for the transition period,” said Garrood as Patron has said the next six months will be ‘business as usual’. “Loyalty to the Punch team and the publicans meant the decision weighed heavily on my mind. But what the person leading the business over the next six months is going to do is very important, so it has to be someone or a group of people who will take Punch forward for the long term. Someone with a long term commitment. The opportunity is there for someone else to have a big role in the future of the business.”

Remarkable publicans

In a message for the Punch publicans, Garrood said: “I want to say a genuine heartfelt, thank you to the Punch publicans. They have been remarkable during this time. They have seen a lot of change through Punch and the uncertainty with change of ownership, and they continue to deliver outstanding hospitality to customers throughout this time. Their patience has been remarkable.”

He added that the companies that are taking over the pubs, Patron and Heineken, “are committed to a high level of investment and high quality hospitality”.

“I think publicans should be looking forward to this. I believe both of these owners want to take the business forward and I think there’s a very positive future ahead,” he added.

“I fully understand during a period of change when you don’t have certainty it is difficult. Now we have reached a completed transaction, Patron is stepping up to run those pubs.”

Judging the pubs code progress

Asked about the current furore over the pubs code and a recent report from the pubs code adjudicator’s office revealing evidence that pubcos are denying tenants their right to market rent only options (MRO), Garrood was clear. “The assertion that pub companies are not committed to making the pubs code work is simply not true.

“I have led this business on a route of full compliance, trying to understand and improve complex legislation and I’m sure that the leadership of this business will continue to do so.

“The success of the legislation is not to be judged purely by the number of people taking up MRO. The code was intended to improve the relationship between publicans and pubcos and there have been a variety of new agreements made between them. The code should be judged on the variety of agreements. Tied agreements have improved or changed for tenants, there have been commercial free-of-tie leases and maybe MROs. I would be careful of judging the code’s success just on MRO. Tied tenancies remain a popular route for many publicans.”

He added: “I have been enormously proud to run Punch and take it through this period of change, and I have nothing but admiration for the team and our publicans. The future of the business is very rosy.”

Deals completed

Investment firm Patron Capital has completed its £1.8bn acquisition of 3,200 Punch pubs on 25 August​ and a week later Heineken announced it had completed the second part​ of the deal, to buy 1,900 of these pubs from Patron.

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