Bass is one of the UK’s largest private sector organizations, having a major presence in the leisure sector in both the UK and abroad. In early 1990 the company, according to most City and investment analysts, announced an excellent set of results, with profits before tax increasing by 18 per cent over the previous year to £529m. Earnings per share rose by 22.6 per cent and the dividend declared showed an increase of 20 per cent. It was the end of the decade, with Bass still Britain’s number one brewer, with over 20 per cent of the total market, and sixtytwo draught and packaged beers produced in thirteen breweries from Glasgow to Alton. In the same vein, Bass regarded itself as Britain’s number one pub retailer with 4,373 tenanted pubs, 2,405 managed pubs, 95 Toby Grills, 120 Toby Carving Rooms and 13 Drummonds café bars—over 7,000 pubs of one sort or another. Bass was growing in bingo, betting shops, the fruit machine distribution sector, machine production, and ten pin bowling. It was also Britain’s biggest hotel company, and, with the acquisition of Scott Hotels of Canada, shortly to become a significant international player in this sector. Because of its domestic strength in the beer and pub business, however, there was a fear on the part of many managers and staff that it was about to become the ‘victim’ of the Monopolies and Mergers Commission’s recommendations to the Department of Trade and Industry of radical changes to the structure and ownership of the beer and pub retailing markets. The main anxiety was that this would result in a reduction in the benefits gained from vertical integration.
As we saw in the previous chapter, a central feature of the subsequent DTI Orders was that any brewer owning more than 2,000 on-licensed premises (hotels, restaurants and pubs) either had to stop brewing or sell, or lease, free from any tie, before November 1992, half of the pubs they owned above the 2,000 limit imposed by the DTI. In addition, Bass, in common with all the other national brewers, would have to allow a cask-conditioned guest ale into its tenancies and free trade loan accounts if the tenant or owner so requested.
The Bass Board decided that the company would remain in both brewing and pub retailing (the estate limitations not being applicable if a company was either a brewer or a pub retailer, but not both), and as a consequence two secondary