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Ronson continues comeback

Gerald Ronson continued his progress back to the big time yesterday, unveiling a pounds 135m development programme of leisure centres on the Continent, his second big property launch in a week.

Mr Ronson believes that while the UK leisure market is approaching saturation, there are big opportunities across the Channel. Heron is to develop a 250,00 sq ft leisure and retail scheme in Madrid, two sites in Paris and two in the north of France, each approximately 200,000 sq ft in size.

The Madrid project typifies what Mr Ronson anticipates will be "a series of branded parks across Europe, working with the highest quality operators". It will include a large multiplex cinema, six restaurants, a bowling centre, a family entertainment complex, a bingo hall and shops.

This new phase in Heron's life marks a significant comeback after the post-Eighties property crash. Nearly 80 banks were forced to write off around pounds 1bn in debts.

Mr Ronson himself had a spell in Ford Open Prison because of his involvement in the Guinness Affair. But crucially the banks decided to stand by him.