JW Lees has announced the appointment of a new chairman, Jim Tully, who will take over from Richard Lees-Jones.

Christopher Lees-Jones will also step down as vice-chairman.

The two Lees-Jones families members have devoted 124 years between them to growing the family brewery and pub operator. Both will remain directors.

William Lees-Jones remains as managing director. 

Tully a corporate solicitor, became an advisor to the group’s management board in June 2019. He has been a non-executive director at JW Lees since last April.

The group hopes to return to proactively acquiring new pub and hotel sites and by developing existing premises when the Covid crisis was over.

Anticipating prolonged restrictions to travel, and more staycations, JW Lees will be targeting the acquisition of suburban pubs in its North West heartland.

The news came as the group said it expected the impact of Covid to have a major impact on the group’s results for the current year.

It anticipated “significant losses” despite government support to the hospitality sector.

William Lees-Jones, managing director, said: “We hope that the government will continue to give the sector more targeted support including an overhaul of the business rates system which is already well overdue and, with the vaccination programme going so well, we hope that the sector will able to trade profitably when we are fully open with no restrictions from June 21st.”

Opening in April with outdoor space only would be a challenge, and the company anticipated limited opening of 30% of its pubs. It plans to have all sites open on 17 May.

Annual accounts filed at Companies House for the year to the end of last March showed a pre-tax profit down from £6.8m to £2.2m on turnover down 3% to £76m.