New season for MIDSUMMER
Millionaire Joe Robertson – set to show the South how Geordies do business.
Kate Trollope reports on entrepreneur Joe Robertson’s latest deal and forecasts what may lay in store from the Geordie who plans to take Southerners by storm.
“Some of the Southern places have forgotten how to trade. They have it far too easy and don’t even try. The Geordies will show Londoners how to fight properly for business” – Joe Robertson
Flamboyant Geordie pub and club boss Joe Robertson is this week to sell his City Leisure group in a £6 million deal to fast-expanding pub and club group Midsummer Leisure.
Mr. Robertson, 39, who is credited with transforming Newcastle nightlife, will become a significant shareholder in Midsummer in the cash and shares deal, and will assume a development role.
The deal includes Mr Robertson’s pubs and night spots and his City Leisure Design company, which is responsible for the interior décor of his business and has done work for Midsummer and other groups.
The deal includes sites Mr Robertson has not yet developed. The package of businesses is expected to bring in pre-tax profits approaching £900,000 for the year to 30 September 1988.
While Mr. Robertson will be retained on a consultancy basis, his fellow director Brian Nicholson has been given a three-year service contract.
Mr. Robertson takes £2.5 million in cash from the deal and the rest in shares. There is a deferred element in the transaction geared to the construction and opening of some of the businesses.
Midsummer is attracted to City Leisure because it will take it into the fashionable West End of London and will give it a base for expansion in Newcastle.
And City Leisure has high profile design and retail expertise. Midsummer specialises in retail design and shopfitting through subsidiaries Charnwood Shopfitters and Derby Signs.
Mr. Robertson plans to use public money to take the South by storm and show London pub and restaurant owners how Northern operators do business.
“Many London wine bar owners are so complacent they do not even open Saturday and Sunday evenings,” says Mr. Robertson, who weaned Geordies off beer and onto wind and cocktails, served in high-tech designer surroundings, when he opened Pumphrey’s in Newcastle in 1979.
“Some of these southern places have forgotten how to trade. They have it far too easy and do not even try. The Geordies will show Londoners how to fight properly for business.”
Mr Robertson, a former manager of pop group Lindisfarne, has already sold once he came into pubs eight years ago – to brewery group Allied, which offered £2.3 million for his £3 million-turnover pubs in 1984.
Late in 1985 he came back on the scene with a group of Newcastle outlets, followed by his first London businesses – Macey’s in Duke Street and Dukes in New Cavendish Street.
He transports job-hungry northerners down south to build the pubs and clubs, finding it cheaper to pay their accommodation costs than to employ Southerners, who he find less than enthusiastic about the work.
One of Mr. Robertson’s next London projects will be Cairo’s, a large pub and disco in Beak Street – a site which has seen three restaurants open and close within the past few years, including most recently the New Orleans Jazz Café.
Mr. Robertson already has other London sites earmarked and is believed to have shown interest in the London Video Café in Argyll Street, which is on the market after going into receivership.
Discos and pubs will continue to be the main businesses he develops with Midsummer “because this is what I know best”, but he is not ruling out other leisure ventures.
“Seven or eight years ago I had no experience of pubs… so I can learn.”
Mr. Robertson’s success has so far been in the north against a backdrop of high unemployment, buying run down pubs and turning them into palaces for yuppies.
Midsummer Leisure’s 200-strong businesses are spread across the country but there are fewer southern outlets.
The group, run by Adam Page and Paul Reese, has a capitalisation of £79 million and recently bought the Riley snooker club business for £16.4 million. Its outlets include pubs, discos, bar diners and restaurants.
Mr. Page said Midsummer would continue to expand on all development fronts: “The restaurants are as valuable to us as all the other parts of the business”.
Mr. Page sold his own chain of leisure outlets in 1984 for £7.4 million to Whitbread, and became chairman of Midsummer in July that year. The number of outlets has since trebled, operating profit has soared 1,700% and turnover is up 400%.
For the last financial year pre-tax profit for Midsummer was £1 million.
Midsummer has one hotel which it acquired as part of a nightclub.
It includes two discos, two Berlins Bar & Diners in Derby and Sheffield, Square Restaurant, Birmingham, and Taverna restaurant, Solihull, West Midlands.