Gaskell leaves Wine Cellar

Paul Gaskell, managing director of Wine Cellar, has parted company with the 185-branch off-licence group.

No official statement had been made as OLN went to press about his departure. Gaskell took the hot seat in 2003, having been promoted from finance director after the company - then known as Cellar 5 - was bought by Maryland Securities.

Gaskell presided over another operating loss in the year to Jan 29 2006, according to accounts filed with Companies House at the end of February.

The company, which operates the Booze Buster, Simply Drinks and Simply Food & Drinks chains, posted a £2.2 million operating loss - similar to the previous year, though the figure was propped up somewhat by the sale of 45 Wine Cellar branches to Oddbins for £847,000.

According to the directors' report: "Sales reduced due to the store disposal plan, but like-for-like sales per store continue to demonstrate strong improve-

ments, with a 3.2 per cent increase year on year.

"The company's turnaround plan is continuing with the further redevelopment of the three store fascias in the coming year."

Shares in Wine Cellar are held by Manchester's Jebreel family and a trust fund in Jersey with links to them. It is thought that the Jebreels remain ambitious for the business and have begun an external search for candidates to replace Gaskell.

Wine Cellar's recently audited accounts show a dip in turnover from £73.3 million to £70.6 million. The company earned just over £1 million on the sale of properties, including some sale and leaseback activity.

Palmer & Harvey McLane, the tobacco and confectionery wholesaler, is owed £2.9 million and the debt is secured against the company's property assets.

Wine Cellar's bank loans and overdraft account for £975,000 of its debts.