Balls Brothers, the family-owned bar operator and wine merchant, has begun the search for a new chief executive. Richard Balls, the current chief executive, said he planned to relinquish day-to-day control, moving to chairman, after what has been a tough trading period for the London-based company. The 150-year old firm is thought to have suffered notably poor trading at its Lewis & Clarke chain, which is acquired in 2006. It is thought that the search, which commenced a few days ago, will be restricted to external candidates.