131004 afr dixon pic josh robenstonefriday oct 4 2013bruce dixon ceo spotlessphoto by josh robenstone Photo: Josh RobenstoneAll the argy bargy over the $1.2 billion Spotless bid – a sum way below its 2014 valuation when it floated on the ASX – led CBD to wonder whatever happened to the man who made it all happen: Bruce Dixon.
He was the guy who called in private equity backers, Pacific Equity Partners, to take Spotless private back in 2012 for $720 million. And returned it to the market less than two years later valued at $1.93 billion.
“What people don’t realise is that as a former Spotless executive I could see clearly how costs had blown out way too much at the company and took the opportunity to PEP,” he said post float in 2014. This was during that sunny period when the share price was above what investors paid in the float.
He departed in November 2015, having sold $12.2 million worth of stock, and promised his retirement wouldn’t involve anything more strenuous than a drink in one of the hotels in his son’s growing pub empire.
“I’m OK at drinking it. I’m not sure about the pulling of the beers,” he told CBD a few months before his departure.
“I’ll be one of these old guys who say ‘you know what I used to do, I used to do that – I used to be the CEO of Spotless’ and they’ll say ‘bullshit’.
“It will be a lot of fun. I’m at that stage of life. I’ve been doing this public company stuff for too long.”
But you can’t keep a performer like Bruce out of the spotlight for long.
A quick squiz at the latest accounts of the pub empire in question, Dixon Hospitality Ltd, reveals that Bruce was appointed its chief executive officer and managing director in October that year.
He retired as Spotless CEO on November 20, according to its annual report.
His son, Michael Dixon, is the head of corporate development for Dixon Hospitality, which is peppered with his dad’s old colleagues from Spotless.
Vita Pepe jumped ship from Spotless around the same time as Bruce and is a director of Dixon Hospitality. Spotless number cruncher Richard Sweetnam joined as company secretary.
In September last year another Spotless alumni, Paul Waterson, joined as the hotel group’s chief operating officer. The pub group was meant to be preparing for a sizeable IPO in the coming months.
Most of you will have heard that the public float has been postponed indefinitely while Bruce is in talks with – you guessed it – two separate private equity groups.
Which means that Dixon Hospitality might not make it to market. Given the performance of Spotless since its float, that might not be a bad thing.
The group told CBD a decision is expected within weeks. Road toll
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