Monday, 18 April 2016

Offilers of Derby

You know what time it is? Time for more from Anthony Avis.

His book really is a diamond mine of gems about brewery owners. They seem to have been a very odd bunch. I wonder if that was something peculiar to the brewing trade or if other long-established industries were similar? Hard to tell, as I don’t know of a similar book about other trades.

The topic is another takeover by CUB, this time Offilers of Derby. Another old brewery inherited by feckless heirs:

OFFILERS BREWERS AMBROSE STREET, DERBY
The brewery had been established as Vine Brewery in 1876 by George Offiler and the company, set up in 1892, was still controlled by members of the Offiler family when I first knew it in the early 1960s. The board consisted of two Offilers and a couple of others. It was run by two cousins, H C Offiler, who was chairman and managing director; and F H Offiler, who looked after production and the tied estate, with a particular interest in setting up small hotels with residential and catering facilities in and around Derby. It was one of the sleepiest brewery companies I had so far experienced, even in an era of comatose management. The two of them did not seem to bother what happened, so long as they could draw a reasonable income and pursue their own private interests.”
"The Brewing Industry 1950 - 1990", by Anthony Avis, 1997, pages 79 - 80.

You’ll learn later what prompted F H Offiler’s interest in hotels and what his private interests were. Treating a brewery as a handy source of income while not really guiding or developing the business is a common theme.

They didn’t even seem very interested in brewing beer:

“They were sufficiently indifferent to their prosperity as to contemplate giving up brewing and buying their beer in from a neighbour. Both Bass and Ind Coope & Allsopp had protective shareholdings, and were content to leave it alone. Offilers had about 250 public houses in and around Derby and spread out to the south; their beer was pleasant. They did not like Ind Coope, which had had the temerity to buy Pountain's brewery in Derby ten years earlier, when H C Offiler had thought it was his fish to catch. So he made an approach to Bass, which thought the purchase tag was too high; and as they say, one thing led to another beyond their initial intentions; and soon they were talking to Derek Palmar, when he was a director of Philip Hill, Higginson, Erlanger, City merchant bankers. They found they were receiving advice to sell out to CUB; by coincidence, he, er, happened to be its financial adviser too. Within a very short space of time an offer had been made, and Offilers were swept into CUB. Within two years they had been closed down - which was not quite what the Offilers had in mind; but this was 1965.”
"The Brewing Industry 1950 - 1990", by Anthony Avis, 1997, page 80.

250 pubs was a decent tied estate. There used to be dozens of breweries that size in England, but many disappeared during the takeover fever of the 1950’s and 1960’s. What happened shows the danger of arousing the interest of a big brewery. Though that Derek Palmar was working for both Offiler’s and CUB does rather seem a conflict of interest. I’m sure he did very nicely out of it.
As you can see below, Offilers was a profitable business:

OFFILERS' REPORT
Brewery profit of £82,474
A NET  profit of £82,474 for the year ended September 30 will be reported by the directors of Offiler's Brewery Ltd. Derby, at the 61st annual meeting of the company to be held the Midland Hotel, Derby, on January 8.

To the net profit there has to be added the unappropriated balance brought forward from 1949 amounting to £137,290, making a total of £219,764.

DIVIDENDS
Out of this the directors have declared dividends on the "A", ' B" and "C" Preference stocks amounting, after deduction of income tax, to £4,620, and an interim dividend of ten per cent. actual, amounting, after deduction of income tax, to £13,200, on Ordinary stock.

From the available balance of £201,944 the directors recommend the transfer of £35,000 to general reserve, and the payment of a final dividend of 15 per cent, actual, free income tax, on the Ordinary stock, amounting to £19,800, the unappropriated balance to be carried forward is £147,144.

Mr. F. R. Offiler, one of the directors, retires by rotation and offers himself for re-election.”
Derby Daily Telegraph - Saturday 16 December 1950, page 6.

The brewery seems to have been drifting rudderless:

“As usual, I had been sent over to their brewery to organise their integration into CYB and found the set up there fascinating. It was feudal, dormant, and without energy, sense of purpose, or direction. It was difficult to get figures or lists, or worthwhile information; not because there was obstruction, but the data, in modern jargon, was not assembled. I did the necessary tour of the properties in order to write a terrier, and it was interesting to gather up the information.”
"The Brewing Industry 1950 - 1990", by Anthony Avis, 1997, page 80.

Not the most go-ahead sort of place, then.

1 comment:

J. Karanka said...

Nowadays someone would pay good money for a brewery described as "feudal". Bonus points if it includes monks or something.