City & Corporate: Pubs account under review

Mitchells & Butlers review places incumbent agency Finsbury on alert.

Pub group Mitchells & Butlers is putting its retained financial PR account with Finsbury out to pitch following a high-profile boardroom shake-up and strategic overhaul.

Mitchells & Butlers owns brands from Harvester and Toby Carvery, to Browns and All Bar One.

The review has put on alert long-time incumbent Finsbury. It has advised the British pub operator since its 2003 creation, which followed a de-merger from Six Continents.

Finsbury is understood to have been invited to repitch for the account alongside a handful of City rivals, although a number of heavyweight names are believed to have been ruled out for conflict reasons.

The review follows a radical restructure of the M&B board in January, when its biggest shareholder Joe Lewis led an investor coup to oust previous chairman Simon Laffin and two other non-executives, and install new chairman John Lovering and a trio of senior non-executives.

Subsequently, the new board revealed plans to reinvent the firm by focusing on food, rather than alcohol.

Director of investor relations Erik Castenskiold said: 'We have big growth plans and whenever a company evolves its strategy, it is natural to stand back and look at its agency relationships.'

It is understood that agencies have sent in proposals and that pitches will be heard in the coming weeks.

Castenskiold also indicated the nature of the brief may change to incorporate more of a corporate comms aspect, in addition to the core financial related responsibilities. 'Certainly M&B has a significant presence on the financial pages, but we now need to consider whether there are other pages the company needs to be on as well,' he said.

Following its strategic review, the firm will now focus around core food-retailing pubs under its Harvester, Toby Carvery, Crown Carveries, Sizzling Pub Co, Premium Country Dining Group and Vintage Inns brands.

The company is also widely expected to sell off some of its more alcohol-focused brands, but earlier this month it rebuffed private equity offers for its Browns and All Bar One chains.

Mitchells & Butlers has recently changed its boardroom pay advisers and has become embroiled in media stories over executive pay.

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