Virgin plans giant leisure centres…

Virgin is planning to launch giant cinema, music, restaurant, and leisure complexes around the world.

As part of the plan it has consolidated its cinema and music retailing interests into one group, called the Virgin Entertainment Group.

Virgin has also secured a 150m credit facility which will be spread across its territories in the US, Europe, Japan, and the Far East to fund this expansion. It claims Virgin Entertainment is worth 350m.

Virgin founder Richard Branson says: “This will allow us to extend the scope of operation dramatically over the next couple of years.”

Simon Burke, Virgin Entertainment Group’s chief executive officer, was hired last November to merge the various operations.

He says: “To be purely a shopkeeper in the music or entertainment field is not enough. We want to offer people a quality night out under one roof.”

The first Virgin Entertainment centres will open in the US and Far East late next year but will not come to the UK until 1999.

Virgin will open six more cinemas in the UK, all with retail outlets inside.

However, retail consultant Clive Vaughan of Verdict Research, says: “These centres are hard to make work. The Trocadero in central London has struggled. What happens if you put one in Barnsley?”

Virgin Entertainment Group comprises Virgin Cinemas, Virgin Retail Europe, Virgin Stores and Virgin Entertainment Asia.

The Virgin European office in Uxbridge will close by the end of this year as part of the restructure, making about half of its 70 staff redundant. Its duties will be split between the group’s other offices in central London and Paris.

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