European Leisure beefs up board

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The Independent Online
EUROPEAN Leisure, owner of the Hippodrome in London's West End, has strengthened its board of directors, some 14 months after Michael Ward quit as chairman and chief executive.

Mr Ward left the group because he felt responsible for the decline in the company's share price, currently languishing at 2.75p.

Clive Bastin, deputy chairman of Frogmore Estates and Clarke Hooper, has been appointed non-executive chairman.

Additionally, Patrick Hooper has become finance director. He held the same post at Pentos. Ian Rock, who took over the reins in the wake of Mr Ward's departure, becomes chief executive.

Investor confidence has been undermined by poor trading performances. After heavy write-offs, the company lost pounds 46m in the six months to last December.

European runs 70 discos and venue bars in the UK, and 60 Riley snooker clubs with a total 80,000 members. Sentiment in the shares has also been hit by an investigation by the Serious Fraud Office into the company's acrimonious takeover of Midsummer Leisure in 1990. The investigation, Mr Rock said, did 'not affect us in any way shape or form. We are co-operating fully'.

European is continuing to sell assets to bring down debts, last stated at pounds 75m and more than twice the size of shareholders' funds.

Mr Rock said he hoped to make an announcement soon about the sale of the company's five discos cum restaurants in France, and the Palma disco in Majorca.

'Our total disposal programme will amount to single figure millions. Current trading is very difficult and tough, although I believe the recession has now bottomed out from our point of view.' Results for the year to June are due out next month.