IT is the end of an era at a Burton-based beer giant after its chairman stepped down – ending a 120-year period where a member of the same family has been at the head of the firm’s board.
David Thompson has departed Marston’s, based in Shobnall Road, after 35 years at the helm of the firm.
The 59-year-old’s decision brings to an end a 120-year period that has always seen a Thompson at the head of the company, originally called Wolverhampton & Dudley Breweries.
None of his four children work at the company or even in brewing, although one daughter works for a distiller’s.
The firm was created by his great great-grandfather, George Thompson, a malt wholesaler and owner of the Dudley & Victoria Brewery in Dudley.
He had helped finance a Mr Banks, owner of the Park Brewery in Wolverhampton.
When Banks disappeared, Mr Thompson took over the heavily indebted brewery and then added the Fox Brewery in Wolverhampton, then owned by Charles Colonel Smith.
Mr Thompson took the new Wolverhampton & Dudley Breweries public in 1891 and founded a dynasty.
David Thompson’s father, Teddy, was the last member of the family to hold the joint roles of chairman and managing director .
He said: “It’s been a public company since 1891, and it’s always been run in the interests of the wider group of shareholders.
“I have always known that ever since I joined in 1977.”
He is clearly honoured with time at the head of the firm and has overseen growth into one of the biggest regional brewing and pub-owning businesses in the country.
Renamed Marston’s after its best selling beer, the company’s growth, including a constant building programme, means it now has 2,100 pubs nationwide.
He said: “It was a well-run business in 1977 and it remains a well-run business in 2013.”
Mr Thompson will be replaced by the former head of internet gaming business Gamesys Roger Devlin.
Mr Thompson said: ““It is a pleasure to hand over the chairmanship to Roger Devlin.
“He brings to Marston’s his intellectual rigour and extensive board experience.
“He has thorough knowledge of hospitality and leisure, and his background in sport and on-line businesses will add to our relationships with our customers.”
Ralph Findlay, Marston’s chief executive Officer, said Devlin brought significant and relevant experience to the role which would be tremendously valuable as the company developed.
Mr Devlin said: “Marston’s is a great business generating industry leading returns through the vigorous implementation of a consistent strategy well suited to today’s trading environment.
“I look forward to working with the team to build on this success.”
This comes after bosses described the firm’s performance during 2013 as ‘encouraging’ following the release of its end of year results, despite a fall in profits at its community pubs.
The disappointing performance was put down to adverse weather at the beginning of the year, and while a warmer summer boosted trade, it was not enough to deliver an improvement on last year.
On a more encouraging note for the company, profits were up at ‘destination and premium’ pubs, which focus more on serving food.
Performance at its managed and franchised pubs remained steady, with profits in line with last year.
In addition, its own-brewed beer volumes were up by 6 per cent, while cask ale volumes rose by four per cent and bottled ale a massive 19 per cent.
Following the results, Marston’s chiefs said the firm would take greater focus on its new-builds and would continue to shed poorer performing venues.
Mr Findlay spoke to the Mail about the firm’s latest results.
He said: “We are encouraged by our performance in the second-half of the year.
“We are confident that we are significantly improving.”