PracticeConsultingThe financial week ahead – Bass ditches pubs.

The financial week ahead - Bass ditches pubs.

In the spotlight: Accountant looks to leisure market following exit

Chances are when you order a round in the pub this Christmas that your traditional British beers and spirits will be owned by a brewer based a long way from Burton on Trent or other traditional brewery towns.

Bass, until this summer the UK’s third largest brewer, severed its 223-year links with the brewing business when the then chief executive and chairman, Sir Ian Prosser, sold off its brewing division, which includes Carling, Worthington, Tennants and Caffreys.

Belgium’s Interbrew bought the Bass Brewers stable for #2.3bn, which now puts more than 50% of the UK brewing market in the ownership of overseas brewers.

Today unsentimental Sir Ian will reveal annual results likely to reflect his shake-out of the group to concentrate on leisure markets. He has now handed over the chief executive role to Tim Clarke, the chief executive of the group’s leisure retail division.

The 57-year-old chartered accountant in September relinquished the chief executive role, loosening his 13-year grip on the pub and grub turned leisure empire. But he has still clung to his role as chairman and architect of the group’s strategy.

Sir Ian also pushed forward with the disposal of its pub estate and hopes to raise up to £700m, as smaller rival Whitbread also looks for a buyer for its 3,000-strong pub estate and to concentrate on leisure.

Last week Legal & General Ventures, the private equity firm, emerged as a bidder against the Japanese bank subsidiary Normura International for the pub estate, which was put up for sale by the company in October.

Sir Ian, who has worked for Bass over 30 years, has two-and-a-half years until retirement and is believed to be busy in search of a large hotel chain to buy with his multibillion pound war chest.

Analysts this autumn believed that a stronger chief executive such as ambitious chartered accountant FD Richard North was needed to stand up to Sir Ian’s tough reputation.

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