Major reshuffle at Leon as co-founder leaves and chain eyes global expansion

Leon

There are inklings of a major reshuffle at board-level for healthy fast food chain Leon as several of its directors, including one of its founding fathers departed earlier this month and two new directors were brought in – one from the private equity group which recently bought a major stake in the business.

Co-founder Henry Dimbleby, Jacques Fragis and Henrietta Dimbleby are all leaving the chain, it was confirmed in company reports filed on Companies House recently. Dimbleby has been on the board for the last three years since co-founder John Vincent took over as CEO, but will remain a shareholder and business partner.

Meanwhile, Brazilian entrepreneur Fersen Lambranho, who is on the board at Spice Private Equity, owned by GP Investments, has been brought in. Spice ploughed £25m into Leon this year and became the largest shareholder as part of Leon’s plan to open international sites including in the US.

Lambranho reportedly sees Leon as an opportunity to “replicate the great success of a former investment, Fogo de Chão” – a Brazilian steakhouse that expanded into the US and is now listed on the Nasdaq.

Leon told FEJ that Lambranho and Boscolo have been appointed to support Vincent’s ambitions, which includes new international markets.

Vincent said: “I work with the most amazing team, who I have had the luxury of hand-picking and working with for the last three years. We are going to make many mistakes and learn a lot as we grow here in the UK and make our first forays into the US.”

Leon has previously been known for securing executives from key rivals, including John Upton from McDonald’s, Gemma Kearney from Pizza Express and Antony Perring and Chris Burford from Wagamama.

Leon now has around 50 sites in the UK and is continuing to see rapid growth on the back of a growing consumer trend towards food which is healthy but also available quickly.

The fast food brand recently signed a franchise deal with Roadchef that will see its first roadside restaurants open this summer and kickstart its expansion into the sector.

Leon said it plans to open “many more” roadside sites over the next five years although it did not give a specific number.

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