Sources at Stonegate Pub Company, which completed the acquisition of 333 pubs from Mitchells & Butlers at the start of the week, report that Graham Jones, the current Punch operations director, will join the company in February 2011, writes Paul Charity. "Graham is a very talented operations director, " said the source. "We are not sure what his job title will be at the moment — we only started the company on Monday. "There will be other people joining the company but for the moment there are a few people on interim contracts." Stonegate has established a headquarters on a Birmingham business park and currently has a headquarters staff of 49 full-timers. The total staff across 333 pubs is around 5,000. Mitchells & Butlers is offering a nine-month transitional management service at the 333 pubs, which include student and late-night venues. Earlier this week, it was revealed that talks over merging Stonegate Pub Company with Town & City Pub Company are making very slow progress. Stonegate’s chairman Ian Payne is also chairman of Yates’s operator Town & City and a merger of the two wet-led operators has been mooted. Sources suggest that the Icelandic bank Kaupthing, which owns Town & City Pub Company alongside Commerzbank, is proving a little unreceptive to the merger idea. A source said: “It’s still an opportunity waiting to be done but in all honesty it’s very hard to call (whether a deal can be done) — it’s certainly very far from being complete (at the moment).” Ian Payne is filling the de facto role of executive chairman at Stonegate while talks about a possible merger with Town & City Pub Company are “on-going”.