Overall ranking: 13
Restaurateur ranking: 5
Graham Turner - Snapshot
As chief executive of Tragus, Graham Turner oversees a significant restaurant empire that, since being founded in 2002, has grown to comprise more than 280 sites trading as Café Rouge, Bella Italia, Ortega and Strada, serving 20 million meals every year. Tragus is backed by the world’s largest private equity company, Blackstone, which owns Hilton Worldwide, Center Parcs and London Eye owner Merlin Entertainments, giving it considerable financial muscle. Having lost out in a bidding war for Spanish tapas chain La Tasca in 2007, the company instead paid £140m in May of that year to acquire Italian restaurant chain Strada. Sales in the year to 24 May 2009 rose 5.7% to £261.9m with underlying profits (EBITDA) marginally up 0.3% to £44.2m.
Graham Turner - Career history
Graham Turner is a chartered accountant with a background in property and service companies, where he gained valuable experience in fundraising and mergers and acquisitions.
He served as managing director of the Unique Pub Company, which was created by Punch chief executive Giles Thorley in 1998 and sold to Enterprise Inns in early 2004. Turner was part of the team that grew the business from 2,600 to 4,000 venues.
He joined Tragus as chief executive in January 2005 when new owner, Legal & General Ventures, acquired the group and installed a new management team.
In 2008 Turner was named chairman of the British Hospitality Association’s national restaurants group.
Graham Turner - What we think
Inevitably Tragus is linked with any significant deal in the marketplace, and with La Tasca back on the market, for the right price Turner might fancy a second bite of the cherry, having lost out to Robert Tchenguiz in 2007 – and considering that the company’s own take on the offer, Ortega, not having flown as hoped.
Tragus is also in the hunt for Paramount Restaurants, whose creditors are currently undertaking a fire sale. Of course, although the parlous state of the financial markets has made things difficult, Tragus’s owner Blackstone is mulling a flotation for Merlin Entertainments and has refinanced its considerable Hilton debt in 2010, which suggests that a sale to exit from its Tragus investment has to be on the cards sooner rather than later.
It may or may not be a distraction for Turner and his team, although it’s hard to see how else the wheels will come off the Tragus cart otherwise, and growth through further acquisition looks most likely.
Graham Turner - Further information