This week’s exclusive Diary includes lessons learnt and stories broken at the MA250 conference; the fallout from The Apprentice; pay rises at Punch and pub chiefs getting younger. Hot of the press It had to happen eventually. Diary was attending the packed MA250 conference for multi-site operators last week with Draft House boss Charlie McVeigh in attendance. M&C news desk sent Diary early warning of (another) M&C Report breaking exclusive - serial investor Luke Johnson is in talks to invest in the fledgling concept. Sheepishly, Diary moved over to McVeigh to show him the breaker on his Blackberry and to tell him associate editor John Harrington was about to tell conference delegates the exciting news from the podium. And then keeping his wits about him as Harrington broke the news, McVeigh hollared: “It’s only a rumour”. Keeping it Real Nick Pring, founder of Realpubs, appeared at last week’s MA250 conference for multi-site pub operators to talk about the deal to sell the company for £53.1m to Greene King. The company was able to buy good quality managed freeholds from Mitchells & Butlers and Punch in 2008 and 2009 after receiving investment from private equity outfit Brockton Capital in December 2007. Pring admitted he couldn’t believe he was able to buy the Crabtree from Punch in Fulham ahead of Fuller’s and Young’s. The pub, which has a big garden next to the river, had a £150,000 investment on the garden, with Ebitda lifting from £300,000 to £800,000 per annum. More generally, the managed acquisitions, six in total, saw average Ebitda per managed pub jump from £150,000 at acquisition to £450,000 after a £300,000 per site investment. Makes you wonder, what were M&B and Punch messing about at? You’re hired Last week’s The Apprentice featured some of the great and good of the restaurant world, including the guys from the London-based Mexican burrito chain Chilango. So what does 15 minutes or should that be 3 minutes of prime time TV exposure get you? Well, according to Chilango’s inbox the next morning, 38 investment inquiries! Where there’s a Will And those watching closely will have spotted Diary’s colleague Will Drew, editor of Restaurant, trying the food at Curaco’s and MyPy as Apprentice contestants battled it out in the semi-final. Drew reports the filming actually took place last October. It’s a miracle how they keep these things quiet Luke checks out the list Diary hears that Luke Johnson, serial restaurant investor, took particular interest in the latest R200 list, which provides a run-through in size order of the 200 leading eating-out operators in the UK. We suggest that Manicomio (199) and Me Love Sushi (198) stand by their phones! Enterprising group Funky ten-strong London-based cocktail bar operators Be At One has taken a dozen or so years to open ten sites. All their sites are free-of-tie commercial leases. Sign of changing times in the tenanted world is that their next site, in Kings Cross, is owned by Enterprise - it’s a free-of-tie lease though. Nice little earner Diary believes in the principle of “No hay, no pay” - no results, no dosh. Punch Taverns leased new chief executive Roger Whiteside is certainly a little more motivated to bring home the hay under his revised pay and bonus structure in the wake of the demerging of managed and leased. His base salary rises a modest 7.5% from £400,000 to £430,000 on becoming chief executive. But his bonus potential expands from 150% of base salary to 250% of base salary, meaning that his earnings potential jumps from £1m to a little over £1.5m. Spirit chief executive Ian Dyson has his earnings pegged at £675,000 but earns an extra £30,000 for sitting on the Punch board as a non-executive. His bonus potential remains 150% of salary so he could earn a little short of £1.7m. Meanwhile, deputy chief executive Mike Tye sees his basic salary shade up by £10,000 to £410,000 plus a potential bonus of 150% of salary. Happily also, he is the single participant in a special incentive scheme that was established by Punch in 2008 under which he may become entitled to a “cash payment depending on the extent to which certain performance conditions are satisfied”. The award vests upon completion of the demerger on 1 August, subject to the achievement of the applicable performance conditions at that time, with Spirit bearing the cost. Towing the party line MP Brian Binley and Enterprise Ins boss Ted Tuppen clashed repeatedly at the recent second select committee hearing into pubco and tenants relations. In fact, the tone of their exchanges was little short of rancorous with Binley threatening to embarrass the Enterprise boss by reading out tales of Enterprise tenant woe. Would the two snub each other when they found themselves in the same room at last week’s All Party Parliamentary Beer Club dinner? Far from it - Diary can report the pair removed themselves from the throng to engage in what looked like a perfectly friendly exchange of views Like father, like son Commer Group was founded in 1989 by Jim Walsh who invested the princely sum of £500. The company, which owns hotels and pubs, grew to be worth £40m, selling tranches of pubs to Punch and Scottish & Newcastle Pub Company over the years. Jim became poorly last year and the long-term succession plan had to be speeded up. Son Edward has left his job as an investment banker at Citigroup to take the reins - at the age of 25. He tells Diary: “Whenever it came to school holidays I was always the one who wanted to jump in the car with my dad and spend the days going around the pubs. If anyone questions my experience in the trade I often reply that I’ve been an area manager since I was 10.” Edward adds that he wants to spend at least two decades building the company, which includes the Town and Village Hotels subsidiary. Diary regards Jim Walsh as one of the industry’s true gentleman and wishes Edward every success.