Allan Leighton and David Campbell have been appointed chairman and group chief executive, respectively, of PizzaExpress, in a recapitalisation that the group said will give it "a strong balance sheet and significant funds to invest in growth in the years ahead".
Jinlong Wang previously held both chairman and chief executive roles, however stepped back earlier this year. The group is understood to have been taken over by its lenders in a debt-for-equity swap with Hony Capital.
The company's new capital structure sees total debt reduced by over £400m, from £735m to £319m, and includes the immediate injection of £40m of new capital. In addition, the business has a further £90m of funds available from the new owners.
Leighton said: "This is a unique opportunity in casual dining. With a significant recapitalisation of the company, and substantial further funds committed, we look to building on our position as a leader in the casual dining market, once Covid restrictions are eased. There is great future for PizzaExpress delivering great pizza and a brilliant customer experience."
Campbell, formerly chief executive of Wagamama and the Ivy Collection, added: "PizzaExpress is an iconic brand, which has enjoyed much success over its 55-year history. The chance to steer the company to even greater heights in the years ahead is an honour. First, I want to acknowledge the outstanding work of Zoe Bowley, the leadership team, all PizzaExpress colleagues, and the support of business partners, during these extremely challenging times. I am very much looking forward to working with the team, and with the backing of a strong balance sheet, on some exciting times ahead."
Bowley, managing director of PizzaExpress UK & Ireland, will be joining the main board, alongside group chief financial officer Andy Pellington.
Bowley said: "2020 has been a very tough year, and obviously remains so as we start the second lockdown. I would like to acknowledge the resilience and commitment of all our teams who have made me incredibly proud. After the reshaping of the company, we can now start to accelerate and grow PizzaExpress, with new shareholders, a strong balance sheet, and a new experienced chairman and group chief executive."
PizzaExpress confirmed last month that it will be cutting 1,300 jobs across its UK estate as Covid-19 continues to impact dine-in trading, less than two months after the business shed 1,100 roles and closed 73 sites through a company voluntary arrangement (CVA).
PizzaExpress operated 449 restaurants throughout the UK at the beginning of this year, the vast majority of which it said were trading profitably before lockdown. Founded by Peter Boizot in Soho in 1965, PizzaExpress has more than 600 restaurants globally.