This week’s exclusive Diary includes a new investor linked with Chris Hutcheson’s stake in Gordon Ramsay Holdings; Luke Johnson on his failed New York venture; leisure park operator X-Leisure launching legal action against Luminar’s administrator Ernst & Young; and a baby-faced new non-exec at Yummy Pubs. Who wants a stake in Gordon At the start of last month, high-profile chef Gordon Ramsay and his father-in-law Chris Hutcheson reached a settlement and dropped all claims against each other, over a dispute linked to Hutcheson’s departure from Gordon Ramsay Holdings (GRH) in October 2010. Hutcheson is believed to have received about £2m through the settlement, which includes payment for a 30% share in GRH. This has led to speculation that an investor would now look to snap up Hutcheson’s former stake. A name floated about was serial investor and former owner of high-end eateries the Ivy and Le Caprice, Luke Johnson. A quick email from Diary to the Patisserie Valerie backer on the possibility is quickly followed by a “No” in reply. The search continues… Luke’s Big Apple slip The achievements of Johnson, the serial eating-out investor, are legendary, but not every part of his illustrious career has gone to plan. Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s The Bottom Line, in a programme themed Cockup or Conspiracy, the man behind the growth of Pizza Express discussed his attempt to open a “huge” Belgium mussels and chips restaurant in New York some years ago. “I think we probably made every mistake in the book,” Johnson admitted. “For example, we recruited as a joint venture partner a big US group that unfortunately went into chapter 11 (bankruptcy) half way through the project. We used non union labour to build the restaurant, failed to realise that in New York you tended to need to use union labour, so the union stuck a giant 24 ft inflatable rat outside our restaurant.” The site was also built in the “wrong part of New York” and they didn’t budget for the cost of imported Belgium beers. The failed project cost $5m, but Johnson is philosophical. “If you want an innovative society, if you want a society that’s willing to take risks, to generate new technologies, new jobs, new businesses, then it involves failures, it involves cock ups. I think the British have got markedly better in recent years at accepting that as part of the journey.” JDW divides the nation JD Wetherspoon last week announced it would scale back its pub opening plans, but if reports from certain regions are to be believed, some folk would rather expansion halted full stop. Local opposition to new JDWs has intensified in some areas recently. An anti-’Spoons petition in Maldon, Essex, has reportedly attracted “hundreds” of signatures, while in Lymington - the town dubbed ‘too posh’ for a Wetherspoons - vicar Peter Salisbury is the latest to add his objections to a licence application. But opposition is far from universal. In Maldon, two rival Facebook groups have been set up, one opposing the move and one in favour of it. And scrolling through comments in the Southern Daily Echo about the proposed Lymington pub, it’s clear that some have had enough of the Wetherspoons bashing. One poster said the anti-brigade “come across as kill joys because they have no understanding of modern life, and seem to assume anyone having a quiet occasional drink must be some hoodie knife wielding binge drinker”. “I imagine if they went to Wetherspoons one afternoon for a meal they would quite enjoy it.” Luminar case goes into X-tra time X-Leisure, the leisure park owner, has launched legal action against Ernst & Young, the administrator of Luminar, over “hundreds of thousands of pounds” in unpaid rent across four nightclubs. The sites named are JJ’s and Liquid and Envy at Lockmeadow in Maidstone, Project at Riverside Entertainment in Norwich and Oceana at Xscape Milton Keynes. As part of the proceedings the group is attempting to change the law surrounding the payment of rent during administrations. If X-Leisure is successful, other landlords impacted by the Luminar administration last year are also expected to seek financial redress through the courts. Youthful endeavour You know when you are getting old when doctors, policeman etc start to look younger. How about non-executive directors? Step forward, Finn Foster, the new “board member” at the high-regarded Yummy Pub Company, who is two years old! As co-founder and Finn’s father Tim says: “Following a recent trip we were advised that the business would probably benefit from appointing a non-executive to give us advise and direction outside of what we know. Everyone knows we don’t do the norm here at Yummy Pubs and Finn has already had a significant impact on the pubs. He is the reason we have a 'Bumptastic' food range that pregnant ladies can choose with confidence even though when the idea was delivered, he was yet to be.” What’s in a name? Much has been written about the Hobbit pub in Southampton being told to change its name by US film company Middle Earth Enterprises, which owns much of the copyright to JRR Tolkien’s work. Diary fears similar action could occur someway down the line relating to the new pub venture from industry veterans Adam Hogg and Richard Ward. The duo have combined their surnames for their new business, Hoggwards, a name not a million miles away from the famous school in the Harry Potter books. Careful, gents.