Luke Johnson and Gary Ashworth rescue FishWorks

13 February 2007 by
Luke Johnson and Gary Ashworth rescue FishWorks

Embattled fishmonger and restaurant chain FishWorks has appointed recruitment and restaurant entrepreneur Gary Ashworth as its chairman and confirmed that he and Luke Johnson, former chairman of Pizza Express and Belgo, are to take a stake in the company.

The two are between them buying a 33% stake in the operator as part of a £2.5m rescue share placing. Founder Mitchell Tonks continues his role as the company's chief executive.

The move follows the departure of Ratnesh Bagdai as finance director after less than a year in the post and the exit of executive chairman Ray Morris in December.

The company also had grim news when it came to trading. The first four months of the year, from 1 August, had been "adversely impacted" by the management disruption as well as "pricing and operational issues".

This meant its full-year results would be "not less than break-even", despite its decision to move its head office and administration to above its Islington restaurant, saving it £225,000 this year.

In a separate development, Bill Balkou, founder of struggling sports-themed bar and restaurant chain Sports Café, has stepped aside as chief executive to be replaced by Peter Marks, a former director of nightclub operators Northern Leisure and Luminar.

Balkou, who last month announced a major cost-cutting drive following the collapse of possible takeover talks, will become development director, although the company stressed this was still a boardroom-level position.

By Nic Paton

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