Brent Walker threatens to scrap pubs joint venture with Labatt

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BRENT Walker, the troubled pubs and betting shops group, is threatening to unwind Maple Leaf Inns, its joint venture with the giant Canadian brewer Labatt.

Formed less than a year ago with the intention of building a 1,000-strong public house chain selling Labatt lager, the venture has run into trouble because Brent Walker believes that Labatt has cut its promotional support for the beer. Maple Leaf now has 164 pubs, having added another 14 bought from Bass 10 days ago.

Pubmaster, the Brent Walker subsidiary that operates the pubs, is threatening not to put any more pubs into the venture. Instead, it would buy or lease further pubs itself, adding to the chain of nearly 2,500 pubs it already operates.

Senior executives at Pubmaster, which is run by long-standing Brent Walker director John Brackenbury, are also considering whether to unwind the venture entirely.

Pubmaster has told Labatt that it feels the Labatt brand is not being supported heavily enough in the UK. When launched, it was strongly backed with television advertisements featuring comedian Tony Slattery dressed as a Mountie, and the sponsorship of Nigel Mansell, the Formula One world champion.