Ex-Whitbread chief takes on Pitcher & Piano task

Mike Dowell, ex-marketing director of the Whitbread Beer Company and ex-managing director of Whitbread’s Costa coffee bars, has been appointed managing director of Wolverhampton & Dudley Brewery’s (W&DB) Pitcher & Piano chain, with a brief to shake up the brand.

Derek Andrew, managing director of W&DB’s managed pubs division, Pathfinder Pubs, says: “Mike will join us on June 17, reporting to me. His brief is to reinvigorate existing assets and return the business to like-for-like sales and profits growth. Part of his task will be to identify outlets that don’t fit in with the Pitcher & Piano concept and get rid of them.”

W&DB acquired the Pitcher & Piano chain as part of its &£300m takeover of Marston Thompson & Evershed in February 1999.

However, after a hostile bid from Pubmaster at the beginning of 2001, the chain, along with a number of its pubs, was put up for sale, with W&DB’s management promising to return cash to shareholders.

While 120 individual pubs have been sold in the past year, W&DB was forced to admit earlier this week that bids for Pitcher & Piano were not as high as it had hoped, and that it now planned to keep the chain.

It is understood to have been looking for about &£60m, but analysts suggest bids were more likely to have been about &£45m.

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