Overall ranking: 33
Pub ranking: 3
Ralph Findlay – Snapshot
Ralph Findlay is chief executive of Marston’s, the former Wolverhampton & Dudley Breweries (W&D) business, which was renamed in 2007. Marston’s operates about 2,400 pubs as well as brewing beers, including Pedigree and Hobgoblin.
As chief executive since 2001, Findlay has presided over a period of expansion that has seen the acquisition of brewers including Jennings Brothers, Ringwood and Wychwood, as well as pub groups Wizard Inns and English Country Inns.
In the 26 weeks to 3 April 2010, the business reported profit before tax and exceptional items of £27.8m on group revenue of £309.2m.
Ralph Findlay – Career guide
Findlay lived in Edinburgh until 1984 and completed a BSc in geology at Edinburgh University. He worked as an exploration geologist for a year before qualifying as a chartered accountant in 1988. He worked at Price Waterhouse in London and in 1990 joined Bass as a treasury manager, later joining Geest as financial controller.
Findlay joined W&D, now Marston’s, in 1994. He was appointed finance director in 1996 and then chief executive in 2001.
Ralph Findlay – What we think
Respect for tradition shouldn’t be a barrier to change. Perhaps the most visible sign of Ralph Findlay’s stewardship of Britain’s second-biggest integrated pub and brewing business is the change of name from W&D to Marston’s in 2007.
While W&D may not have been the most stylish name in the industry, it was well respected and established. Three years on, it’s hard to remember that Marston’s was ever called anything else. The rationale for the name change was the strength of the Marston’s brand, best known for its flagship beer Pedigree.
The smoothness of the rebranding is evidence of Findlay’s clear vision for the business. The high regard with which the City holds Marston’s chief executive and his senior team has enabled the business to steer a steady course through the recession, seen as a sound investment in a challenging sector.
All of which makes it important to remember that the business which Findlay took over in 2001 was on far shakier ground. The acquisitions in quick succession of Marston, Thompson and Evershed, followed by Mansfield Brewery, both negotiated while Findlay was finance director, had left W&D with high levels of debt. This made it vulnerable to predators, and one of Findlay’s first tasks as chief executive was to fight a protracted takeover war with entrepreneur Robert Breare and rival operator Pubmaster.
All the more credit to Findlay, then, that Marston’s has prospered. The acquisitions of Jennings in Cumbria, Hampshire brewery Ringwood and Wychwood Brewery in Witney, Oxfordshire, have enabled the business to launch a much-admired local and guest beer strategy across its own pubs and the free trade.
On the pub side, Findlay has found a niche for Marston’s in large new-build pub-restaurants. In July 2009 the company raised £165.6m through a rights issue to fund the development of 60 large managed pub developments.
This gives Marston’s an increased share of the all-important pub food market, with food at the new-build sites in locations such as retail parks typically reaching 60% of sales, compared with 39% in the managed estate as a whole. There is also a joint initiative in place between Marston’s and Travelodge to co-develop new hotel and pub sites.
Findlay also responded proactively to Parliament's Business and Enterprise Committee report into the tied pub model, announcing revised agreements in the group’s tenanted and leased pub estate, including franchise deals.
Ralph Findlay – Further information