The first pubs opened in Britain in the 11th century, and for most of the following centuries they were strictly mom-and-pop businesses. Today, the erstwhile proprietors of Ye Olde Publick House would be astounded at what a big business these establishments have become. The biggest of all is Enterprise Inns PLC, with nearly 9,000 pubs and more than $1 billion in revenues. Last year pretax profits surged 23%, to $394 million.
The man behind this sea of pints is G.E. "Ted" Tuppen, who created Enterprise Inns in 1991. He's an acquisitive soul. In the past three years he has nearly doubled the number of pubs Enterprise owns. Last year's master stroke: buying 4,000 establishments from Unique Pubs Ltd. for $4 billion, sealing Enterprise's dominance.
A chartered accountant who once worked for KPMG, Tuppen, 53, plans to focus on getting the most from his holdings. He aims to buy perhaps 50 high-quality pubs a year -- and sell off 150 or so that underperform. That way Enterprise will be in good shape to deal with a pending smoking ban, the need to offer higher-quality food, and a possible economic slowdown.
"What's a good pub depends on the very subjective view of the people who go in it," he says. "[But] I'd say a good pub is one with the actual and future potential to make a profit for the licensee running it." Good brews, good profits. Simple, but it works.
By Laura Cohn