The loss of the industry's quiet man

By Phil Mellows

- Last updated on GMT

Jim Fallon obituary

Related tags Tenanted + leased Pubco + head office

Jim Fallon, who has died aged just 56, was a quiet, yet hugely important, player in the UK pub industry, working behind the scenes of an unfolding drama that brought us the rise and fall of the giant pubcos.

At Midland Bank, now HSBC, he arranged finance for Ted Tuppen’s expansion of Enterprise Inns, funding no fewer than eight takeover deals for the company between 1996 and 2002.

Then he switched to a consultancy role setting up his own company, McQueen, and later Graybridge. Having backed Wolverhampton & Dudley Breweries’ takeover of Marston’s in 1999, he personally initiated that company’s acquisition of Burtonwood in 2004 and did the same for Fuller’s takeover of Gale’s Brewery a year later.

Latter deal

That the latter deal came as a complete surprise to industry-watchers was characteristic of Fallon’s way of working, carrying out all the due diligence and negotiations in the background before springing a watertight done-deal on an unsuspecting audience.

I met him once, in 2011, for an interview​ for this magazine. We had lunch at Lowlander, Covent Garden’s Belgian café, which I only then discovered he owned, having bought it out of administration in 2009 (he sold it in 2014).

Now it was my turn to be surprised by this slight, unassuming figure. I was expecting a big, blustery wheeler-dealer. But it doesn’t work like that. Fallon’s strength was his discretion, his invisibility, and his detailed knowledge of the pub sector.

Around this time the big pubcos, including the one he helped build, were getting into difficulties. He admitted to me that Enterprise Inns had “got too big”.

Quiet counsel

“Pubcos extracted too much profit from tenants to pay interest costs… I wonder now whether the optimum size for a pubco is in the hundreds rather than the thousands.”

At this point he had joined the board of a managed house company, Eclectic Bars, which became Brighton Pier Group, the current owner of Lowlander among a string of bars, indoor golf venues and a theme park, as well as the pier. He stepped down as chairman in 2015 and was later succeeded by the rather more high-profile Luke Johnson.

Fallon remained a non-executive director with more time to enjoy a pint at his local, the Bull Hotel in Fairford, Gloucestershire. Giving notice of his death chief executive Anne Ackord praised his “quiet counsel”.

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