Grand Metropolitan

Grand Metropolitan plc was a leisure, manufacturing and property conglomerate headquartered in England. The company was listed on the London Stock Exchange and was a constituent of the FTSE 100 Index until it merged with Guinness plc to form Diageo in 1997.

Grand Metropolitan plc
Holiday centres
Entertainment centres
Public houses
FateMerged with Guinness
HeadquartersLondon, England
Key people
Sir Stanley Grinstead (chairman)
Allen Sheppard, Baron Sheppard of Didgemere (CEO)
Number of employees


1934 to 1970sEdit

The business began in 1934 as a hotel business called MRMA Ltd (abbreviated from Mount Royal Metropolitan Association).[1] Grand Hotels (Mayfair) Ltd, a business founded after World War II by Maxwell Joseph, merged with MRMA in 1957[2] and the combined business expanded rapidly under Joseph's leadership.[3] It was first listed on the London Stock Exchange in 1961[1] and changed its name to Grand Metropolitan Hotels Ltd in 1962.[1]

It diversified into catering acquiring Bateman Catering in 1967[1] and then Midland Catering in 1968.[1] It then bought Express Dairies in 1969,[4] the Berni Inn chain,[4] and the Mecca bingo halls in 1970.[1]

Next came its move into brewing, when in 1972 it bought Truman, Hanbury & Buxton and Watney Mann. The latter's subsidiary International Distillers & Vintners owned the J&B whisky, Baileys Irish Cream, Gilbey's gin, Piat wine and Croft sherry and port brands, as well as the European and Commonwealth rights to Smirnoff vodka.[1] It changed its name to Grand Metropolitan in 1973.[1]

1980s onwardsEdit

In 1980 it bought Liggett Group, a US tobacco and drinks business.[1] In 1981 it bought Warner Holidays and Intercontinental Hotels Corporation.[1]

In 1986 the Company sold the Liggett Group to Bennett S. LeBow.[5]

It acquired Heublein wines and spirits from RJR Nabisco in 1987, which made it one of the largest producers of wines and spirits in the world, and gave the company ownership of the Smirnoff brand.[6] Also in 1987 the Company withdrew from catering when it disposed of its catering division by way of a management buyout so creating Compass Group.[7] In February 1988 386 pubs in London, the Home Counties and East Anglia were sold to Brent Walker; 210 pubs in the north and Midlands went to Heron International and 105 pubs in the South East went to Gibbs Mew (a Wiltshire brewer subsequently bought by Enterprise Inns).[8] Intercontinental Hotels were sold to Japanese based Saison Group.[9]

These disposals funded the expansion of its core betting operations by buying William Hill.[10] It also entered the fast food industry by buying the Pillsbury Company and with it the Burger King chain in 1988.[11] It also bought the Wimpy chain that year and merged it with Burger King.[12] It continued to sell non-core business, including in 1990 the brewers Samuel Webster's and in 1991 Ushers of Trowbridge.[13]

In March 1991 the remaining breweries were sold to Courage (subsequently sold by Foster's to Scottish & Newcastle) in a deal that pooled 8,450 pubs as the jointly owned Inntrepreneur Estates Company. Inntrepreneur had to have 4,350 tied pubs by the time the Beer Orders took effect, which led to many being sold and fewer being let on free-of-tie leases.[14] In September 1993, 1,654 Chef & Brewer pubs were sold to Scottish & Newcastle (subsequently bought by Heineken). 1,750 pubs were sold in 1995 for £254M to Nomura as Phoenix Inns in one of the first securitisation deals, and in May 1996 a further 1,410 pubs were transferred to Spring Inns with a view to a similar sale. In the end Inntrepreneur and Spring were both sold to Nomura for £1.2bn in September 1997 to clear the way for the Guinness deal. This left Nomura with 4,400 pubs[15] They created the Unique Pub Co for the 2,600 pubs that had signed the controversial SupplyLine agreement; the remaining 1,100 Voyager pubs[16] were free-of-tie, earmarked for disposal or were the 400 locked in legal disputes over SupplyLine.[17] Disposals and the acquisition of Inn Partnership (1,241 tenanted pubs) from Greenall Whitley in 1998[18] and 988 smaller Bass pubs in 2001.[19] The remains of the Grand Metropolitan pub estate became part of Enterprise Inns when an Enterprise-led consortium bought 3,219 tenanted Unique pubs and 940 leased and managed Voyager pubs from Nomura in a £2bn deal in 2002.[20]

Merger into DiageoEdit

Grand Metropolitan merged with Guinness plc in 1997 to form Diageo.[21]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Competition Commission Report 1983 Archived 21 January 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ Sir Maxwell Joseph Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  3. ^ Sir Maxwell Joseph Daytona Beach Morning Journal, 23 September 1982
  4. ^ a b Competition Commission Report 1990 Archived 25 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ Liggett Vector Brands
  6. ^ Grand Metropolitan to buy Nabisco's Heublein The New York Times, 17 January 1987
  7. ^ "Caterersearch". Archived from the original on 29 December 2012. Retrieved 9 February 2009.
  8. ^ "120, pp. 2–19". Brewery History. Retrieved 26 April 2017.
  9. ^ "Tokyo Group to Buy Hotel Chain for $2.27 Billion : British Owner Accepts Seibu Saison's Cash Offer for Inter-Continental – latimes". Los Angeles Times. 16 July 2011. Retrieved 26 April 2017.
  10. ^ William Hill: History Archived 18 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ U.S. Investors Agree to Buy Burger King From Diageo for $2.26 Billion The New York Times, 26 July 2002
  12. ^ Grand Metropolitan to buy Fast Food Chain The New York Times, 8 August 1989
  13. ^ Ushers goes private with Fresh Venture Capital bid The Independent, 22 December 1998
  14. ^ John Shepherd. "Inntrepreneur brewing up buyout". The Independent. Retrieved 26 April 2017.
  15. ^ Andrew Yates (22 December 1997). "Nomura plans shake-up of Inntrepreneur pubs". The Independent. Retrieved 26 April 2017.
  16. ^ Diane Coyle (7 December 1998). "Greenalls sells off pubs to Nomura". The Independent. Retrieved 26 April 2017.
  17. ^ Thornton, Tony (28 August 2014). Brewers, Brands and the pub in their hands – Tony Thornton – Google Books. ISBN 9781783065066. Retrieved 26 April 2017.
  18. ^ Cope, Nigel (10 December 1998). "Greenalls' pounds 370m pubs sell-off marks fresh round in strategy". The Independent. Retrieved 26 April 2017.
  19. ^ "JavaScript is disabled in your browser". Retrieved 26 April 2017.
  20. ^ "JavaScript is disabled in your browser". Retrieved 26 April 2017.
  21. ^ $33 Billion Giant Guinness to Unite With Grand Met The New York Times, May 1997

Further readingEdit

  • Reader, W.J., Grand Metropolitan: A History 1962–1987, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0-19-822976-6