Inside Track by Mark Wingett Mitchells & Butlers’ (M&B) full-year results, which are due tomorrow, would undoubtedly have got attention anyway, with industry commentators getting their first chance to see what impact the renewed economic downturn and also the shenanigans resulting from Joe Lewis’s aborted bid would have on the operational side of the business. Forecasts are that pre-tax profit will be down around 11%-12% to c.£155m, while like-for-like sales will be up over 2.5%, margins flat and net debt lowered by around 20%. Earlier this year, the group estimated that the underlying like-for-like growth trend had softened to around 1% over the nine weeks to 16 July. Simon French, analyst at Panmure Leisure, predicts that the group will say that current trading is broadly flat. However, the operational performance will again take a back seat as the market gets its first chance to get a more detailed run down on what M&C Report columnist and Guardian reporter Simon Bowers called “M&B’s night of the long knives”. For many the departures of Roger Moxham, Amanda Coldrick and Adam Martin will be seen as cost cutting dressed up as greater autonomy and a flat management structure. Martin’s role of marketing & strategy director will no longer exist and his departure out of the three is the most surprising. He has led the marketing of M&B retail business since 1999 and has done a great job of establishing and building the company’s portfolio of retail brands at the same time impressing many judges of talent in the sector. Viewed by many as a chief executive in waiting, he will not be short of suitors. A pivotal part of the announced restructure will see M&B’s current three business channels split into nine smaller, more focused and accountable brand groups, putting complementary brands under common management. Each brand group will be headed by an experienced brand operations director, who will have full “top to bottom” accountability for profit performance. It is understood that these roles will be filled in the majority by internal candidates in the next two to three weeks, which may sooth some concerns from shareholders about operational consistency. A question mark revolves around the role of the new operations director, Robin Young, who after joining the group just over a year ago as commercial director, now finds himself in arguably the most pivotal position in the company. The question of who’s idea the restructure was can be debated long into the night, with many sensing the hand of Lewis in proceedings. Indeed, the new structure is similar in tone to that advocated by the billionaire and his Piedmont representatives earlier this year. Whatever the background, the departures and reshaping of the management team have certainly placed chairman and de-facto chief executive Bob Ivell in a stronger position. The news is that a search for a chief executive and new non-executives continues, but it’s strange that a significant restructuring of this kind has taken place without a new chief executive in place or with an incoming leader not briefed. It suggests that Ivell will have his hand on the operational tiller for some time. Over to you Ted Never wanting to be overshadowed, Enterprise Inns will also come forward with their full year results on Tuesday. According to leading analyst Douglas Jack, the message will be one of continuing stability within the group’s substantive estate during the second half of the year. Jack said: “However, after disposal activity and sharp declines in the non-substantive estate, we are forecasting pre-tax profit to be down 8% to £161m (consensus £159m).” The tanker has started to turn at Enterprise but more work will be needed, the question is will long-time chief executive Ted Tuppen be there to oversee it. Speculation continues in the market place that Tuppen is considering a move upstairs to become chairman of the group he formed 20 years ago, with current chair Hubert Reid retiring. It has even been suggested that a process is already in place to find Tuppen’s replacement, with the likely candidates already whittled down to two. Current lieutenant, chief operating officer Simon Townsend is seen as the obvious internal candidate. Many will argue that Tuesday may come too soon for an announcement on Tuppen’s future and the man himself has many times proclaimed that he wants to right the ship and prove the tied-model still works before he takes his bow. It would, however, seem the perfect opportunity to start putting in place the initial foundations of a succession plan. Luminar’s new dance partners It would seem that the endgame for the majority of the Luminar estate is in sight, with Hugh Osmond, creator of Punch Taverns, jumping to the head of the queue with a c.£45m bid package for the rump of the business. Many have asked why Osmond and why nightclubs? Let’s be honest this is not the size of deal that would get someone of Osmond’s calibre jumping out of bed in the morning, but the majority of sites he is willing to acquire, around 40, are trading profitably and if there is profit to be had then it is a sound deal for the co-founder of Pizza Express. The majority of the business makes £12-15m ebitda, so if Osmond gets the debt position right and can also go to landlords with a strong bargaining position, for example “give us a rent reduction or this site will go under”, then there has to be a long-term opportunity to turn it into a worthwhile venture. If Osmond is unsuccessful, and his patience has already been tested with a rescue package rejected pre-administration, than the field will be open for suitors such as Sun European Partners and RCapital to look at another package deal, while Cavendish Bars, Inventive, JDW, and even Mecca Bingo will be amongst the secondary pack looking to pick up a few hidden gems here and there.