Enterprise Inns has revealed it will have 10 directly managed sites by mid-November.

The growth of the managed division is being overseen by Paul Harbottle, former JD Wetherspoon chief operating officer. He told M&C Report two sites are currently in the process of being converted  – The Wood in Marleybone and the Duchess of Cambridge in Stamford Brook, west London.

The Duke of Sussex in Waterloo has also been earmarked for conversion although Enterprise is currently negotiating with lessee Dave Newman, who has called its compensation offer ‘derisory ‘ after his 31 years’ service at the pub.

These sites, and targets in London and Manchester, would join Enterprise’s original managed offer – the St James of Bermondsey.

Harbottle, whose title is group commercial director, said no targets had been set for the eventual size of the division but “a very small proportion” of Enterprise 5,500-strong tenanted and leased estate would be considered.

He said: “Our focus will be to evaluate those that become available, are closed or are massively failing to fulfil their potential.

“We will have ten sites as managed by mid-November.

“The Wood in Marleybone and the Duchess of Cambridge are both sites that are closed that have massive potential under management.

“It’s difficult to talk figures at this stage. It could be 50 by this time next year. As we learn something from each one we feed that into the next and that adds to our understanding of the different models.

“For the moment we are looking at clusters – with a focus at the moment on London and Manchester. But these could take in inner city urban pubs to destination pubs off the beaten track.

“We are honing in on three forms – the community boozer, family dining and the premium end.”

Harbottle said the new project was “not a managed house division of Enterprise Inns” and that there would few dedicated resources outside a handful of operators across the country employed to search out new sites.

On the issue of competition between the new managed division and the existing estate, Harbottle said:  “We are aware that our publicans already operate in a highly competitive market where new leased, managed and freehold pubs could come into the area at any stage. Where we introduce a managed outlet we will be able to select a retail concept that doesn’t compete directly with our own tenanted and leased pubs in the immediate area.

“Our prime objective is to maximise the existing leased and tenanted business and that means working closely with our publicans to improve performance so the site reaches its full potential. There are times when tenants for whatever reason are not keen to do that so we do have an option of considering the managed route.  The numbers we are looking at are a very small proportion of the estate and this is most certainly not about kicking tenants out.”

He said there were currently no plans to brand the sites but that a managed operation presented the opportunity to test out concepts that could be rolled out to more sites.

Press reports in recent weeks had linked Simon Dodd, former commercial and people director at Orchid Group, with a move to Enterprise.

On this point Harbottle said:  “We have been talking to a number of key people within the industry who could support this and one of those is Simon Dodd. No approach was ever made to Simon and any suggestion to the contrary is totally unfounded.”

Negotiations continue at the Duke of Sussex where Newman has been told that his lease will not be renewed when it comes to an end in November. He has been told he will need to leave the pub in the New Year and has been offered compensation.

However, he told the PMA he was fighting the decision and that Enterprise’s suggestion he talk to his local council about housing him was “adding insult to injury”.

He said: “I’ve been through two recessions at this pub and I have never had any concessions. I’ve just got through this latest one, through hard graft and determination, and now they tell me they want to take away everything I’ve worked for.

“Never in 31 years has anyone said to me they wanted me to go. Now all of a sudden they drop this on me.”

Harbottle said: “We are in negotiations with Mr Newman and have made him a compensation offer so at this stage are not prepared to comment any further.”