Tim Martin offloads £5m of JDW shares
As reported by The Morning Advertiser’s (MA) sister title MCA Insight, JD Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin has sold £5m worth of shares in the pub company.
Martin offloaded 431,500 shares at £11.66 each on 1 December, leaving him with a 27% stake in the business.
The move marks the second time Martin has sold JDW shares this year, having offloaded £5m worth in the summer.
The news comes just days after the JDW boss warned that new Covid-19 trading restrictions would prevent half of the group’s sites from reopening, calling the new rules a “lockdown by stealth.”
JDW has 435 pubs in tier two or the equivalent in Scotland while 366 of its sites are subject to the highest tier and will therefore remain shuttered.
“It is very disappointing that yet another raft of regulations has been introduced, which has effectively closed half our pubs,” he explained. “In reality, the government has extended a form of lockdown, by stealth, in large swathes of the country.”
In the company’s full year results released in October, Wetherspoons reported a sales dip of 30.6% to £1,262m while it recorded a £34.1m pre-tax loss – down 133% on the previous year.
£30m NHS contract awarded to former pub operator
Health Secretary Matt Hancock's former neighbour and pub operator Alex Bourne was awarded a contract to supply medical-grade vials for Covid-19 test kits to the NHS several months ago in a deal worth £30m, a Guardian investigation has found.
Bourne – who ran the Cock Inn in Thurlow, Suffolk, a few hundred yards from Hancock's former constituency home, until late 2017 – had no previous experience of medical supplies but has been manufacturing plastic vials for Covid test kits for about six months according to findings.
As Conservative MP for West Suffolk, Mr Hancock attended the pub’s reopening after refurbishment in 2016 and after it was nominated for an award in 2017.
The paper reported that Bourne's lawyers initially denied that he had any discussions with Hancock about pandemic supplies, however the former operator later confirmed that he reached out to Hancock via WhatsApp when the UK was first gripped by Covid-19 in March.
The Guardian stated that he said he hoped to repurpose his company Hinpack – which had been making disposable plastic cups and takeaway boxes – to provide personal protective equipment (PPE).
Hancock reportedly advised Bourne to submit information about his company to the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) website before a "major distributor" of medical equipment contacted him several weeks later.
Bourne has produced as many as 2m vials a week for NHS Covid tests since June according to The Guardian.
Budweiser Brewing Group UK&I hires new on-trade sales director
AB InBev’s UK arm, Budweiser Brewing Group UK&I, has announced Jean-David Thumelaire as its new on-trade sales director, responsible for driving growth of brews including Budweiser, Stella Artois, Corona and Bud Light in the on-trade, and supporting customers in their pandemic recovery.
Thumelaire, who will replace Ryan Fritsch at the head of Budweiser Brewing Group UK&I’s on-trade team, has worked for AB InBev for more than a decade, starting his journey in Europe, and most recently working as director of expansion, growth and strategic partnerships in Africa.
“I have long admired the great British pub culture, and now I am happy to be a part of it,” Thumelaire said of his appointment. “Covid has shown us how pubs are an essential feature of national life here, playing an important part in local communities.
“I will continue to support our partners through to a sustainable recovery, as well as bring ambitious plans to drive our winning portfolio of beers that more of Britain’s beer drinkers are choosing than ever.
“In the immediate weeks ahead, we’ll also be continuing the second rollout of our Save Pub Life programme to support pubs and bars financially at what is usually their busiest time of year – enabling people to support local businesses this Christmas season.”
Paula Lindenberg, Budweiser Brewing Group UK&I president, added: “JD has had great results growing our brands throughout Europe and Africa, so I have no doubt he’ll be a great asset to the UK on-trade.
“I’d like to thank Ryan for his hard work as he moves on to a new opportunity, and welcome JD to the role at this pivotal time for the sector. I can’t wait to see what he’s going to bring to the team.”
Star Pubs & Bars invests £5m in December rent concessions
Heineken’s pub arm, Star Pubs & Bars, will invest a further £5m in continuing rent concessions in December to support publicans on core leased and tenanted agreements – taking the Group’s investment in rent reductions to £40m since March.
This latest support, which follows on from Star scrapping rent in November, reflects England’s tier system while offering similar reductions to pubs facing equivalent restrictions in Scotland and Wales.
Tier one licensees are being offered a 30% rent concession, leaving 70% payable, while tier two licensees are being offered a 75% rent concession, leaving 25% payable if they choose to open or a 90% rent concession leaving 10% payable if they close or if they operate as a takeaway only.
Finally, tier three licensees are being offered a 90% rent concession leaving 10% payable if they close or if they operate as a takeaway only.
“We are doing what we can to support our licensees through hugely challenging times, but the pub industry needs real meaningful Government support to counter the draconian unjustified restrictions being imposed on it,” Lawson Mountstevens, managing director Star Pubs & Bars said.
“The Prime Minister’s announcement of a derisory £1,000 compensation for wet-led pubs is, quite frankly, insulting to pubs across the UK. Pubs have invested millions in creating Covid secure environments and our industry has been thrown under a bus by this latest announcement.”
Portman Group announces new chief executive
The regulatory body for alcohol in the UK, the Portman Group, has announced that the current CEO of the Federation for Industry Sector, Skills and Standards, Matt Lambert, will replace John Timothy as its new chief executive from January 2021.
Lambert, who has previously held senior roles at large corporations including Microsoft and Betfair, follows senior appointments Philip Rycroft – the new chair – and Nicola Williams chair of the Independent Complaints Panel – in joining the regulator.
Rycroft, who led the search for the new chief executive, commented: “I am delighted to announce the appointment of Matt Lambert as the new chief executive of the Portman Group.
“Matt is a fantastic hire who brings a wide range of experience and a great track record to the role.
“Matt joins the Portman Group at a critical time, not least as the industry faces up to the challenges arising from the impact of Covid-19,” he continued. “I look forward to working with him to shape the future of the Portman Group, to expand our membership and to work with the alcohol industry to deliver its social responsibilities.
Discussing his appointment, Lambert said: “I am delighted to be joining the Portman Group at this critical time for the alcohol industry and sharing my vision and ambition for the organisation with the members and the team.
“The Group’s value to the alcohol sector is clear; it has a long and honourable history of effective regulation which has ensured the industry has always remained socially responsible, even in the face of major challenges.
“I look forwarding to being a part of shaping the sector and, more immediately, to celebrating 25 years of the Code, a key element in the Portman Group’s work.”
High Speed Training launches hospitality hub
Online training provider High Speed Training has launched a dedicated area to support the hospitality industry as restrictions ease and alleviate some of the pressure that comes with reopening under new measures.
The new site includes a checklist for re-opening a venue under Covid-19 restrictions, a working safely in hospitality quiz, information on relevant courses including the Level two Food Hygiene & Safety for Catering online course as well as industry insights including what the public deems the most important factor when choosing where to eat.
High Speed has also pledged to add more helpful resources, including dedicated guides to re-opening a pub or bar and advice pieces on promoting safety in hospitality, in due course.
“As the UK gears up to ease out of the second lockdown, for many hospitality establishments it’ll mean returning to a sense of ‘business, but not quite as usual’,” Sarah Taylor, hospitality specialist at High Speed Training explained.
“This is unknown territory we find ourselves in once again – with the country divided up and businesses subjected to different restrictions in order to protect customers – and we hope that our dedicated area provides clarity for businesses, and reassurance that there is support out there.”
Greene King tied tenants in tier 2 and 3 to get 90% rent concessions
Pubco Greene King has confirmed its tenants in tiers two and three will receive a 90% rent concession from when national lockdown restrictions were eased.
What’s more, while Greene King Pub Partners’ tied tenants in tier one will be granted a 40% rent concession, of the pubco and brewer’s 875 English pubs there are currently no Greene King pubs in tier one.
The pubco estimated its financial support amid the coronavirus pandemic for its tenants now stands at £25m.
Greene King Pub Partners will review the level of support every four weeks, it said.
Alongside the rent concession, the firm stated tenants can receive discounted barrels from Greene King until the end of March 2021, with tied tenants received a trade credit of £35 per barrel.
Greene King Pub Partners managing director Wayne Shurvinton said: “We supported our tied partners through the recent November lockdown with a 90% rent concession and that will remain in place as the tier system is a lockdown in all but name for the majority of pubs.
“Despite investing hundreds of thousands of pounds over the summer to install safety measures like Perspex screens and hand sanitiser, plus taking on extra staff to increase cleaning frequency and allow table service, our tenants have still been closed down for Christmas by the Government, even though they have done everything asked of them."
Simon George to step down from Budweiser Budvar UK
Budweiser Budvar National Corporation has revealed that Simon George is to step down as managing director of Budweiser Budvar UK after six years in the role.
It also confirmed that Jitka Vlčková will join the UK management team and serve initially as joint MD alongside George as part of an extensive handover.
Vlčková was most recently the country commercial manager responsible for the Czech and Slovak markets for a Belgian food company.
“We are extremely grateful to Simon for all his hard work and effort over the past seven years – he leaves our business with our very best wishes and sincere thanks,” Petr Dvořák, Budweiser Budvar National Corporation managing director, said.
“Simon and the UK team have done a great job in building the Budvar brand.
“In particular, we are pleased with the brand performance in the UK, and we are particularly proud of the latest market share data showing we are the fastest-growing Czech brand in the GB off trade.”
George added: “I have loved my time here but it’s now the right time for me to handover and embrace a new challenge.
“I am very grateful for the support that I have received during my time here at BBUK from our chairman Renata Pánková, and I wish the rest of the board well for the future.
“The appointment of Jitka means the UK business is in great hands as the team prepares for Brexit and the full roll out of our ‘Greetings from the Republic of Beer’ programme to the UK on-trade.
“As a top 10 world beer brand in both draught and packaged formats, we are confident about the future opportunities for Budweiser Budvar in the UK.”
Hawthorn Leisure unveils community-focused rebrand
As reported by The MA, real estate investment trust NewRiver’s 700-strong pub arm will rebrand as ‘Hawthorn: The Community Pub Company’ as it seeks to become the UK’s number one community operator.
“Throughout the pandemic, our teams have been incredible, providing our pub partners and operators with support, reassurance and somebody to talk to,” CEO Mark Davies explained.
“We’re enormously proud of our company culture, the community of people we work with and the pubs we operate.
“Our ambition is to be the number one community pub company, and next month we will rebrand to ‘Hawthorn: The Community Pub Company’, putting our purpose right at the heart of our business for everybody to see.”
Speaking to The MA, Davies added he believes the rebrand reflects “who we are, what we do, and what we're all about”.
“We're a big investor in communities all around the UK,” he explained. “We strongly believe in the suburban and community pub model and we want to be the number one community pub company in the UK and that's where we intend to be.
"We had other priorities in the initial lockdown, having not ever dealt with anything like that before, and then obviously getting the business back up and running when we bounced back on 4 July, but this is something we've been working on for some time– probably for the past six, nine, maybe 12 months.
“It was always our intention to do this and the team have done a super job.”