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Grade into nitery trade

LONDON — Michael Grade will become executive chairman of First Leisure Corp., Britain’s biggest nightclub owner, when he exits as chief exec of Channel 4 in July, it was announced Wednesday.

But he categorically denied reports that he plans to take publicly-quoted First Leisure into the film distribution or production business.

Instead, he committed himself to pursuing the recreation and entertainment company’s existing expansion strategy, which focuses on discos, theme bars and health clubs. First Leisure is planning to spend around $250 million over the next three years to grow in these areas.

First Leisure is effectively Grade’s family company. It was founded by his uncle, Lord Delfont, and Grade is al-ready non-executive chairman, having taken on that role in 1995 after his uncle’s death.

Now he will take over the day-to-day management, and the current chief exec, John Conlon, will leave by the end of the year.

“The board has endorsed the medium- and long-term investment strategy which John is implementing,” Grade said. “I shall ensure First Leisure continues on its present and highly successful course.”

First Leisure is capitalized at around $1 billion, with annual sales of $300 million. As well as nightclubs, pubs and health clubs, its business spans bingo halls and the Blackpool tower, a famous holiday landmark.

It has recently attracted criticism from City investors for being too conservative for the modern leisure business — something which the arrival of the flamboyant and charismatic Grade should remedy.

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