Spotlight On... Py Gerbeau; Leisure entrepreneur
The dude who got Gangnam Style stuck in my head for a month?
No, that's Psy. PY Gerbeau – it stands for Pierre-Yves, but he's known in the red tops as the Gerbil – is the French entrepreneur who rescued the reputation of the Millennium Dome. After being parachuted in soon after the disastrous opening – his predecessor Jennifer Page was sacked after the opening night fiasco and poor attendances – PY turned it around and became chief executive of X-Leisure more than decade ago, building up a £600m portfolio including West India Quay in London's Docklands and Finchley's Great North Leisure Park.
The Gerbil is in the money. He's just sold a majority stake in X-Leisure, now one of the UK's biggest leisure companies, to the property giant Land Securities. When he took over at X-Leisure, it owned a snow park and leisure centre at Milton Keynes. He wasn't sure about taking on the job: "One dome had almost ruined my health, I didn't want to do another," he says. But he did, and the snow site became one of the UK's most popular tourist attractions. He bought up more leisure parks and snow sites, casinos and shopping centres. Now Land Secs is paying £111.9m for the whole of the management company, which runs its 16 assets as well as a 54 per cent holding in the X-Leisure unit trust.
Yup. Mr Gerbeau had a significant stake in the management company, although he's refused to say how much he made from the deal. Still, no plans to retire to Barbados on the horizon. He's looking for a new challenge, one tougher than counting his money or enjoying life with his family. He has two kids, including one with his TV news presenter wife Kate (née Sanderson). "I'd like to do another big turnaround," he says.
Back to France?
That's one place the Parisian-born entrepreneur won't be returning. He was pilloried in the French press for backing London's 2012 Olympic bid, and once described himself as "an economic refugee from the last communist country in Europe".
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