Cinema giant Vue to name former Kwik Fit boss as new chair

22 May 2024, 13:49 | Updated: 22 May 2024, 15:12

A former boss of Kwik Fit will be named this week as the next chairman of Vue, Europe’s biggest privately owned cinema operator.

Sky News understands that Ian Fraser, who has also chaired the Priory Group chain of addiction rehab facilities and R&R; Ice Cream, has agreed to join Vue next month.

His appointment will come months after the group, which is among Britain's largest cinema chains, finalised its second debt-for-equity swap in the space of 18 months to put its finances on a more sustainable footing.

Mr Fraser is currently the chairman of M Group Services, a provider of infrastructure services, and has also sat on the boards of companies including Punch Taverns.

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He is replacing Stella David, who stepped down after being parachuted in to run Entain, the FTSE 100 gambling group, as its interim chief executive, and now its chair.

"Audiences are returning to our cinemas in record numbers and we're continuing to invest and innovate to provide our customers with the very best in seat, screen and sound," Tim Richards, Vue's founder and chief executive, said.

In its latest balance sheet restructuring, implemented earlier this year, hundreds of millions of pounds of Vue's debt was converted to equity, with roughly £50m of new capital injected into the company.

Last year's Hollywood strikes brought the epicentre of the global film-making industry to a standstill, impacting studios, distributors and cinema operators.

Vue employs more than 8,000 people and operates more than 225 multiplexes in countries including the UK, Ireland, Germany, Italy and Taiwan.

Its recent restructuring underlined Vue's stakeholders' confidence in the long-term prospects of the business, with hits this year expected to include the third instalment of the Deadpool franchise and Gladiator 2.

Led by Mr Richards, Vue completed a previous restructuring in early 2023, which saw £470m of debt wiped out and the company taken over by its lenders, led by Barings and Farallon Capital Management, a US hedge fund.

With the support of those firms, Vue subsequently explored an offer for parts of Cineworld, its larger multinational rival, which went through an insolvency process last year.

While a deal between Vue and Cineworld did not happen, industry sources believe that Mr Richards remains keen to lead industry consolidation in the years ahead.

Question marks also remain over the long-term future of AMC, the American owner of Odeon Cinemas.

Vue's previous owners, Alberta Investment Management Corporation (AIMCo) and Omers, the Canadian pension funds, took control in 2013 in a deal worth close to £1bn.

Thet subsequently presided over a string of acquisitions which helped turn the group into Europe's largest privately held cinema operator.

In 2019 - a record year for Vue - they began to explore a sale but did not conclude a deal before the COVID-19 crisis brought the leisure industry to its knees.

Like its rivals, the company was forced to furlough thousands of UK-based employees during the pandemic, with its sites shut for months.