Bosses make pounds 7m on Regent options

Four more fortunes were made last year in the booming managed pub market as the executive directors of runaway success Regent Inns exercised share options to make a combined paper profit of over pounds 7m.

According to the company's report and accounts, managing director David Franks exercised 725,000 options during the year at prices between 20p and 29p compared with a price at the exercise date of 211p. Like his boardroom colleagues, Mr Franks held on to almost all the shares, which closed yesterday at 261.5p. He now holds a stake in Regent worth more than pounds 30m.

At the current level the shares in the 78-strong chain of pubs, mainly located within the M25 have grown almost 10-fold since the company floated three years ago at the equivalent of 27p.

Like rival JD Wetherspoon, Regent has flourished on relaxed planning restrictions which have allowed unlicensed premises such as banks and post offices to be converted into pubs.

The decision of the directors to hold on to their shares, worth a combined pounds 40m at the latest price, is certain to fuel speculation that a bid is round the corner. Groups such as Pelican, taken over by Whitbread, have attracted premium prices this year as large leisure groups scrambled to get a slice of the action.