Former tennis star may net pounds 19m

DIANE COYLE

Economics Correspondent

The peak of David Lloyd's tennis-playing career came in 1978, when he was a member of the first British team to reach the finals of the Davis Cup since 1937.

His career as a businessman was launched four years later and has gone from strength to strength.

It took Mr Lloyd's own savings of pounds 125,000 and a bank loan to set up David Lloyd Leisure. The first club at Heston, near Heathrow Airport, opened in 1982.

Leisure clubs with a wide range of facilities under one roof were a rarity in Britain then, although they were common in North America.

The group floated on the stock market in 1993, when it was valued at pounds 70.4m.

At Friday's closing share price of 341p, it was worth pounds 161.3m.

Analysts expect this year's profits to be around pounds 9m.

There are 13 clubs, with two more due to open this year and another six on the way.

Mr Lloyd said recently he was checking out another 74 sites and sees room for up to 200.

It will take the financial muscle of a bigger company to keep up this pace of expansion.

The Ferrari-driving chairman, an enthusiastic and determined 47-year- old who captains Britain's Davis Cup squad, left school at 15 with two 'O'-levels.

He owns an 8.5 per cent stake in the company and has options on 1.12 million shares exercisable at a price of 90p.

This week's deal could bring him pounds 19m - and his continued presence is seen as important to the clubs' success.

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