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Leon chairman quits after ‘loss of confidence'

09 September 2008 by

Former La Tasca boss James Horler has stepped down from his position as Leon's non-executive chairman after the group failed to make a profit.

Horler, who joined the healthy fast-food chain's board four years ago and has acted as non-executive chairman for the past 12 months, has resigned from his position citing a "loss of confidence in the executive team's ability to deliver".

He told Caterersearch: "The business should be consolidating and focussing on becoming profitable rather than continuing to expand. It's a lovely concept for a restaurant and it's raised a lot of money but also spent a lot on the way and is not turning over a profit yet."

Earlier in the year Leon's co-founder John Vincent said he planned to five new outlets, despite the uncertainty over the economy and consumer spending.

Leon's chief executive Henry Dimbleby said: "Our restaurants are showing strong like-for-like revenue and profitability growth driven by improvements we have made to the business model over the last year.

"Our objectives over the coming year are to continue to drive operational improvement across the existing restaurants, to update and improve our menu, and to expand carefully into specific good sites around the London area when the opportunity arises."

Dimbleby said the funding for growth would come from existing shareholders and added: "James has been very helpful in the time he's served with us, he's an inspiration and we're grateful for all his help."

Nick Evans, currently executive chairman of Evans Cycles, will be Leon's new chairman and Kirsty Fonzari, formerly of La Tasca, joins the company as operations director.

In March Horler led a buyout of the Northern restaurant chain Ego. Ego has seven sites across the North-west with two set to open in Lichfield Staffordshire, and Manchester's Trafford Centre.

Horler said: "We're going to stick to servicing the affluent suburbs in the North as these are the markets that are under-provided for.

"By the end of 2012 we'd like to have 40 restaurants, and although the economy is not with us, as a business we don't have any debt, only equity."

Leon plans expansion despite uncertainity over economy >>

Leon restaurant group: 21st century take-away >>

Man who built La Tasca back with new Ego project >>

James Horler joins Leon after La Tasca >>

Video: Leon plans expansion despite uncertainity over economy >>

By Gemma Sharkey

E-mail your comments to Gemma Sharkey here.

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