No Pain, No Gain: The miracle worker looks ready to do it again

Revitalising an ailing company is an arduous task. Ask Nicholas Oppenheim.

Revitalising an ailing company is an arduous task. Ask Nicholas Oppenheim. After a tough battle, he resurrected Northern Leisure, eventually enriching himself and his shareholders when he sold to a rival nightclub chain. Perhaps not surprisingly, he is attempting to repeat the trick.

I don't know how long Mr Oppenheim thought his second rejuvenation process would take. I suspect it has already proved rather more onerous and taken much longer than he originally budgeted. But there now seems to be a reasonable chance that his endeavours are starting to pay off and his vehicle, Georgica, could be emerging as an attractive investment.

He moved in more than four years ago, descending, with powerful City backing, on what seemed to be one of the stock market's perennial strugglers, Allied Leisure. The shares illustrate just what a long, hard slog it has been. After topping 120p they subsequently relapsed to near 35p. They are now 87p, not far from their best level for two years. There is little doubt the group was in something of a mess when Mr Oppenheim arrived. Backed by an array of City institutions, he won control after a spirited skirmish. Allied had already enjoyed a colourful career and, swollen by a round of acquisitions, embraced a disarray of leisure activities including tenpin bowling, snooker, nightclubs, pubs and Burger King. It needed tidying up. But that has proved no easy task.

Peripheral interests have been unloaded. Burger King was sold for £4.75m. In some other instances, long talks with landlords about easing lease terms failed to produced the desired result and Georgica took the extreme step of calling in administrators for some of its operations. It is now concentrating on bowling centres and snooker clubs. In the first years of the new reign, heavy losses were suffered.

But the worst should now be over and although last year's figures will not be scintillating, they should, providing trade over the Christmas period was up to scratch, underline that the recovery is on track.

Borrowings, however, are still high. The summertime figure was about £100m. And many of the group's operations, particularly bowling alleys, have still to enjoy complete refurbishment. It is on the snooker side that the Oppenheim touch has been most evident. Many of the 150 outlets have been revitalised and by the end of this year, it is hoped the entire estate will be in a satisfactory condition and trading under one name, Rileys

In 2003 cue sports turnover was up 4.1 per cent with a 7.6 per cent improvement achieved in the first six months of last year. There is nothing to suggest that progress did not continue in the second half-year. Mr Oppenheim, who has a number of Northern Leisure hands on the Georgica board, has not been slow to tap the stock market. A placing at 75p a share produced £25m. An earlier cash call at 96.5p a share realised £18m.

Shortly after offering shareholders shares at 96.5p, the group attempted to buy out small shareholders with a bid of 87p a share. I criticised the company at the time. It was hardly the sort of manoeuvre that endears the City to small shareholders. I felt then - and still feel - that the cash call should have followed the buy-in.

But there is little point dwelling on past misdemeanours. For investors who are prepared to take a long-term view, the shares, I believe, are worthy of interest. As share tipster Bill Johnston on the watshot.com website says, a purchase and lockaway could reap excellent rewards.

Georgica looks an ideal candidate for the No Pain, No Gain portfolio and I have purchased shares at 87p. It replaces Burtonwood, the pub chain being taken over by the Wolverhampton & Dudley Breweries.

I regarded Burtonwood as a long-term investment. The portfolio acquired the shares at 185.5p in August, 2000. Following the Wolves bid, it sold at 570p. With the founding families enjoying a strong influence, I did not see Burtonwood as a takeover candidate. So the Wolves hunger was a welcome surprise.

Although I regard Georgica as a recovery play, there is a strong possibility of takeover action. Indeed, I would not be at all surprised if Mr Oppenheim cashed in his chips once it is hitting the high spots. After all, he did just that at Northern, which was teetering on the brink of disaster when he arrived. Here, too, he had to endure some early difficulties and there were doubts whether he would succeed. But Northern became a major force in the nightclub business, worth more than £400m when he sold out.

Independent Partners; Do you need financial advice on your investments, pension or insurance? Book a free consultation with an independent Financial Adviser at VouchedFor.co.uk

Sport
tennisLive: Follow all the updates from Melbourne as Murray faces Czech Tomas Berdych in the semi-final
Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
Arts and Entertainment
Henry VIII played by Damien Lewis
tvReview: Scheming queens-in-waiting, tangled lines of succession and men of lowly birth rising to power – sound familiar?
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is applying to trademark song lyrics from 1989
musicYou'll have to ask Taylor Swift first
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
Joel Grey, now 82, won several awards for his role in Cabaret
people
Sport
Harry Kane celebrates scoring the opening goal for Spurs
footballLive: All the latest transfer news as deadline day looms
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Recruitment Genius: Compliance Assistant

    £13000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Pension Specialist was established ...

    Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive

    £23000 - £26000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive...

    Recruitment Genius: Technical Report Writer

    £25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Technical Report Writer is re...

    MBDA UK Ltd: Indirect Procurement Category Manager

    Competitive salary & benefits!: MBDA UK Ltd: MBDA UK LTD Indirect Procurement...

    Day In a Page

    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
    World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

    Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

    The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
    Why the league system no longer measures up

    League system no longer measures up

    Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
    Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

    Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

    Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
    Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

    Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

    The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
    Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

    Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

    Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
    Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

    Greece elections

    In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
    Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

    Holocaust Memorial Day

    Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
    Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

    Magnetic north

    The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness