Hard Rock chief leaves after 18 months of falling sales

By Susie Mesure
Friday 31 January 2003 01:00

Rank, the leisure group, has parted company with the head of its Hard Rock division, after 18 months of falling sales at the kitsch café-to-casino chain.

Pete Beaudrault, president and chief executive of the division, will leave immediately. He will receive a payoff in line with his contractual rights. However, Rank declined to disclose the exact amount because Mr Beaudrault was not a board member.

Hard Rock, which opened its first café in London more than three decades ago, was hit hard by the terror attacks of 11 September. It relies heavily on tourist visitors to boost sales, particularly of its rock 'n' roll memorabilia, at its 108 cafes around the world.

The group, which also owns Grosvenor Casinos, Mecca Bingo halls and the Deluxe film processing business, said Mike Smith, the chief executive, would take over running Hard Rock while a replacement for Mr Beaudrault is found.

Rank is anxious to revitalise the Hard Rock brand, which some analysts believe has had its day. It opened two Hard Rock casinos in the UK last year, in Manchester and London, where it hopes to entice "low rollers". Bets can be placed for as little as 50p. The group recently signed an agreement to license the brand to two new casino-based resorts to be developed on Seminole Indian Nation reservation land in the US.

Operating profit at Hard Rock, which accounts for about 15 per cent of the group's earnings, fell by more than one-third in the first half of last year to £14.8m. Analysts are forecasting profits of £32m for the full year, a drop of 16 per cent.

Mr Beaudrault, 47, joined Rank in 1995 and became chief executive of the division in 2001. During the search for a replacement, Dave Catalano, vice president of operations at Hard Rock, and Michael Salter, vice president of finance, will take on wider roles at Hard Rock, Rank said.

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