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JOHN LESLIE – INTERTAIN


INTERVIEW


JOHN LESLIE ON CHANGES AND


EXPECTATIONS SPORT AND BUSINESS: “We’re looking forward to this year because 2011 was a fallow year for sport. There was no major interna- tional football competition and the Rugby World Cup wasn’t in the right time zone so that wasn’t helpful. When you have a Rugby World Cup, you don’t have the autumn interna- tionals. For us, the autumn interna- tionals are as big as the Rugby World Cup in the right time zone. As for the effect of Euro 2012, it will depend on how well England does. Two of Eng- land’s guaranteed matches are in the same week. We should see a 40% sales uplift in that week. Historically, the Olympics have not been terribly exciting for our business because the sports are generally go-down-the- pub type of sports. I think it will be good in London because there will generally be more people about. It’s diffi cult to predict.”


to persuade the landlord to assign the lease to you. And there was competition for the sites.” Leslie describes this period of negotia-


tion as “a long and fairly painful process”, with the fi nal site coming across only in June 2011. He may look relaxed now but that was a harrowing time: “It was a real battle and a traumatic one – because you can’t be sure of the outcome,” he says. In theory, Intertain could have lost a


large number of sites. In the end, it lost four sites on assignment as well as hav- ing to pay premiums in a few cases to secure the leases, a good result as far as Leslie is concerned. “But what it meant was we couldn’t


really start the investment programme be- cause we didn’t know whether we were going to get the sites across,” he says. “Al-


pub&bar


though that’s all in the past now and we can get back to the plan we originally had.”


DEBT AND SUPPORT FROM THE BANKS Investment in the estate is being funded through cash fl ow in the business. The company’s three banks, Barclays, Lloyds and Royal Bank of Scotland (a fourth bank WestLB sold its interests last year) have been very supportive, Leslie insists. “What they could have done is to say that any surplus cash fl ow we’ll use to pay down debt,” he points out. “But they haven’t.” Instead, they can see the wisdom and ne- cessity of invigorating the estate. Intertain’s debt has been reduced sig-


nifi cantly since the company launched. The sale of its Old Orleans sites, as well as the equity deal with the banks, has seen its debt fall from £65m to just under


£30m. “Debt service isn’t a problem with current interest rates,” Leslie adds. “And we’re generating enough cash to fund our investment programme over the next three years.” The investment is already bearing fruit.


The revamped sites have all produced “signifi cant uplifts” in sales. The Wolver- hampton and Reading redesigns are more than a year old now and they’re both showing good second year growth too, beyond the initial spike you would expect from a refurbishment. In time, Intertain will look to grow the


estate as well. “With Walkabout, there are certain towns and cities that we’re just not in,” Leslie says. “We may have been in them before but in the wrong location. The estate was 50 at one point. There’s no reason why it can’t get up to 50 again.”


MATTHEW CLARK: “We switched to Matthew Clark two years ago and they’ve been really supportive of our business. It’s a big move to change one of your major drinks suppliers and it happened very smoothly. They’ve worked with us in terms of getting the right products for us and in terms of supporting events. With a business like this, improved credit terms can mean another de- velopment and they’ve been very good about that.”


FOOD SALES: “An increase in food sales is a side benefi t of our investment. Currently food represents 7-8% of turnover. But we’re fi nding that because the environment is nicer in the refur- bished sites, surprise surprise, peo- ple are more inclined to eat. Another addition to the new-look Walkabout is our pop-up restaurant. We put out trestle tables in front of the big screen, so if people want to come and watch sport and eat they can do so. When they’re fi nished and the party starts, we fold up the tables and put them away.”


TWENTIETH FEBRUARY 2012 19


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