Giles Thorley

12 May 2005
Giles Thorley

Overall ranking: 12

Pubs ranking: 4


Giles Thorley is the chief executive of Punch Taverns, which was created in 1997 from an original estate of pubs bought from Bass and is now the operator of more than 7,800 leased and tenanted pubs. It is the UK's largest pub operator after Enterprise Inns (which has nearly 9,000 venues).

Career guide

Here he joined entrepreneur Guy Hands in 1994 to found the Principal Finance Group where he was involved in a number of pub acquisitions including Phoenix Inns, the Inntrepreneur Pub Company and Spring Inns.

From the core estates of the latter two brands, Thorley created and developed the Unique Pub Company where he served as chief executive between 1998 and 2001.

He joined Punch in December 2001 as executive chairman, and became chief executive in January 2003.

What we think

Thorley has played a major role in the resculpting of the pub landscape over the past 15 years. In just 17 months he has boosted the Punch estate from 4,515 pubs in August 2003 to 7,800 at the start of 2005, continually refining the portfolio on route.

During his time at the Principal Finance Group, Nomura became one of the UK's largest pub owners. As property director of the 1,800-strong Phoenix Inns, Thorley reorganised the business by arranging the piecemeal sale of more than 700 pubs and the leasing of another 100 before selling the core estate to Wellington Investments.

He then built up the newly-created Unique Pub Company from 2,600 pubs to more than 4,000, arranging two securitisation refinancing deals of £810m and £335m between 1999 and 2001.The brand was subsequently snapped up by pub giant Enterprise Inns in early 2004.

When Thorley joined Punch in late 2001 as executive chairman, the company had reorganised itself into a leased and tenanted arm (Punch Pub Company) and a managed pubs business (Spirit Group). Thorley oversaw the demerger of the 1,040-strong Spirit Group in March 2002 and the flotation of Punch on the London Stock Market two months later.

As chief executive, Thorley led a refinancing package that won the ISR European Securitisation Deal of the Year in 2003. The enlarged war chest enabled Thorley to buy Pubmaster's 3,115-strong estate for £1.2b in November 2003 in a deal which strengthened Punch's relatively weak position in the south-east of England. The acquisition swelled the Punch portfolio to more than 7,400 pubs following the sale of 256 sites, and created annual cost savings of £10m.

The next big buy was the InnSpired Group for £335m in September 2004, which is expected to generate annual savings of £3m. This added 1,064 pubs to the estate and, following the sale of 88 sites for £22.6m to avoid competition concerns, took the estate to more than 8,300 pubs. At the start of 2005, Thorley sold 545 non-core InnSpired pubs to Pubfolio (part of property developer Goldtry) for £162.5m.

Punch started 2005 with 7,800 pubs and Thorley has made no secret of his ambition to grow the group to a maximum of 12,000 sites.

In the peer-reviewed Britain's Most Admired Companies 2004 rankings, Punch Taverns came sixth in the pub/restaurant top 10 and 89th in the pan-industry top 220.

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