Grand Metropolitan

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Grand Metropolitan
Industry Hotels
Holiday centres
Entertainment centres
Public houses
Fate Merged with Guinness plc
Successor Diageo
Founded 1934
Defunct 1997
Headquarters London, England, UK
Key people
Sir Stanley Grinstead (Chairman)
Alan Sheppard (CEO)
Number of employees

Grand Metropolitan plc was a leisure, manufacturing and property conglomerate headquartered in England. The company was listed on the London Stock Exchange and was a constituent of the FTSE 100 Index until it merged with Guinness plc to form Diageo in 1997.


The business began in 1934 as a hotel business called MRMA Ltd (abbreviated from Mount Royal Metropolitan Association).[1] Grand Hotels (Mayfair) Ltd, a business founded after World War II by Maxwell Joseph, merged with MRMA in 1957[2] and the combined business expanded rapidly under Joseph's leadership.[3] It was first listed on the London Stock Exchange in 1961[1] and changed its name to Grand Metropolitan Hotels Ltd in 1962.[1]

It diversified into catering acquiring Bateman Catering in 1967[1] and then Midland Catering in 1968.[1] It then bought Express Dairies in 1969,[4] the Berni Inn chain,[4] and the Mecca bingo halls in 1970.[1]

Next came its move into brewing, when in 1972 it bought Truman, Hanbury & Buxton and Watney Mann including the latter's subsidiary International Distillers & Vintners which owned the J&B whisky, Bailey's Irish Cream, Gilbey's gin, Piat wine and Croft sherry and port brands, as well as the European and Commonwealth rights to Smirnoff vodka.[1] It changed its name to Grand Metropolitan in 1973.[1]

In 1980 it bought Liggett Group, a US tobacco and drinks business.[1] In 1981 it bought Warner Holidays and Intercontinental Hotels Corporation.[1]

In 1986 the Company sold the Liggett Group to Bennett S. LeBow.[5]

It acquired Heublein wines and spirits in 1987, which made it one of the largest producers of wines and spirits in the world, and gave the company ownership of the Smirnoff brand.[6] Also in 1987 the Company withdrew from catering when it disposed of its catering division by way of a management buyout so creating Compass Group.[7]

In 1988, having sold Intercontinental Hotels to Japanese based Saison Group, it expanded its core betting operations by buying William Hill.[8] It also entered the fast food industry by buying the Pillsbury Company and with it the Burger King chain in 1988.[9] It also bought the Wimpy Bar chain that year and merged it with Burger King.[10] It continued to sell non-core business, including in 1990 the brewers Samuel Webster's and in 1991 Ushers of Trowbridge.[11]

The Company merged with Guinness plc in 1997 to form Diageo.[12]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Competition Commission Report 1983
  2. ^ Sir Maxwell Joseph Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  3. ^ Sir Maxwell Joseph Daytona Beach Morning Journal, 23 September 1982
  4. ^ a b Competition Commission Report 1990
  5. ^ Liggett Vector Brands
  6. ^ Grand Metropolitan to buy Nabisco's Heublein New York Times, 17 January 1987
  7. ^ Caterersearch
  8. ^ William Hill: History
  9. ^ U.S. Investors Agree to Buy Burger King From Diageo for $2.26 Billion New York Times, 26 July 2002
  10. ^ Grand Metropolitan to buy Fast Food Chain New York Times, 8 August 1989
  11. ^ Ushers goes private with Fresh Venture Capital bid The Independent, 22 December 1998
  12. ^ Spirits soar at Diageo Food & Drug Packaging, July 2005

Further reading[edit]