Saturday, 18 August 2007

Selling QCH & starting Bannatyne's Fitness

Mr Bannatyne was doing so well with his ice-cream business that at times he actually had too much cash. He thought instead of putting it in a bank where it will only earn what the banks will pay you, to buy little terrace houses to rent out. The government under Margaret Thatcher brought in the Registered Homes Act in 1984, which meant they would pay a flat rate – almost exactly £140 a week – for every elderly person who needed looking after. He did his sums in his head, and thought, if he had fifty residents then that would be £7000 a week and a guaranteed turnover of £364 000 a year, the equivalent of almost £700 000 in today’s money. He did another quick sum and estimates his costs and reckoned that if his home was 90 per cent full, he could make a 33 per cent profit on his investment every year. His business was growing, but he still had to make debts at the bank to buy more places in order for his business to grow. To put the money together for some places he had to sell his valuable, like his Mercedes 190E, went back to driving round in an ice-cream van, sold his colour TV and stereo. He got three credit cards to borough money from, and it proves to be all worth it, because he never estimated that this care homes business will be worth £30 million one day.

By the end of 1991, Quality Care Homes Ltd (name of his care homes business) had built and was operating nine nursing homes with a total of 428 registered beds and in doing so had racked up debts in the region of £6 million. His total salary in 1991 was £35 704 which was relatively low when you consider the company’s turnover was £3 317 980 in that year. He was trying to expand and get some more money and the only option was to take the company to the stock market. A fight with the first PR company lead him to go for another PR company who helped him to make 27% of the company available to the market. His holding after flotation would be 72.8 per cent, meaning he would still firmly be in charge. The company was listed in 1992 with the price of the shares between £1.30 and £1.50. This valued the company at around £17-20 million.

In 1993 he saw a new venture (whilst still have Quality Care Homes Ltd) in the way of Just Learning Ltd. This was nursing schools where the government also made grants available for nursing homes. He later sold this business for £12 million, well later in this sentence means actually five years. Not bad for a business that young I reckon. He also sold Quality Care Homes Ltd in 1997 for £26 million and celebrated that by waterskiing for the rest of the day till it became dark, went to the pub and got very drunk.

He had to reinvest his profits of £26 million in another company or face up to pay 40 per cent tax on that money. So he started to look at new ventures to avoid paying tax on this money. He bought shares in a lady’s only gym, became pissed off at the rest of the directors, bought their shares up and called the business Lady in Leisure. And this was where Bannatyne Fitness was later born. A company that he still owns and is today the largest independent fitness club owner in the UK. He bought his own radio station, stated Hotel Bannatyne in 1996, started his own development company, got involved in charity projects and was one of the Dragons on the highly successful business program in the UK, called Dragon’s Den.

He is today a very reputable business man with his 70 health clubs all around the UK and his other ventures and is estimated at £200 million on the Sunday Times Rich List. He is certainly one of my favourite business men and his Autobiography was absolutely brilliant. I love reading biographies and it sometimes takes a couple of days to read a biography. However, the same did not happen with Mr Bannatyne’s biography. Once I’ve started I could not stop and read his book in only two-days. Likely for me it was over Christmas so was at home. I can highly recommend his book as it has all the elements of a great book. I absolutely love what happened in the flotation years and his fights with the PR Company and the solicitor’s fees, as well as his fights with rival ice-cream sellers. BRILLIANT. I am willing to give away my copy to someone who is really interested in reading his full autobiography. Please let me know whether you are interested and I will put the names of all interested parties in a hat and draw a winner and post the book to you free of charge.

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