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Raising the Game

BowlplexFounded in 1976, Bowlplex grew rapidly and established a nationwide footprint of adult-focused, large-box leisure outlets offering food, beverages, bowling, amusement gaming and American pool.  In more recent times however, the company had suffered from the economic slowdown, the implementation of the smoking ban and upward-only rent reviews. Following an earlier consensual restructure that failed within months of inception, a more structural reorganisation was undertaken. Sean Cooper was engaged as Chairman by Bowlplex to lead this process which involved a capital and shareholder restructure, a full internal reorganisation, and an innovative CVA process with the company’s major creditors.

Having concluded this assignment, and implemented a new strategy, Sean retained Wickland Westcott to help find an entrepreneurial managing director to continue the rebuilding of Bowlplex at pace, with a view to either bringing about some consolidation in the sector or achieving an exit in a time frame to suit all key stakeholders. In particular Sean was looking for someone who could re-invigorate the product/service offer, broaden its appeal and create more reasons for people to visit Bowlplex. He was also keen to enhance customer enjoyment, drive profitability per square foot, grow the talent within the business and make it a more enjoyable place to work.  

Wickland Westcott carried out a thorough search across the retail, travel, sports and leisure sectors and ran a blind advertisement to attract individuals with the hunger, personal attributes and wide-ranging skill set required. From a pool of over 500 candidates, a longlist of eight were identified, of which five progressed through a series of interviews and exercises, before three were presented to the Bank for final affirmation. 

The chosen candidate was a proven Managing Director with a strong academic background who had a breadth of commercial experience having led two business turnarounds. This had involved achieving stretching growth targets in the pub trade and gaming sector with similar issues to Bowlplex. A collaborative leader by nature with a strong outcome focus, he came with an ability to simplify issues and turn them into a compelling vision.  He also brought directly relevant practical experience in business and new product development, finance, customer insight, CRM and operations. 

“Wickland Westcott, and in particular John Fortescue who led this assignment, fill me with confidence when they take on such assignments. They bring professionalism, clarity and a deep understanding of what we need. They are very strong around people insight and have a well-honed skill in sorting fact from fiction. They are high on emotional intelligence which allows them to truly match the candidate to the client, not just the role. In Mark Sergeant they found an outstanding candidate. Not only does Mark come with the appropriate skills, competencies and experience, but he also shares the same drive and pace I expect in my business leaders. I am confident Mark will drive Bowlplex successfully through its next phase of growth. You could say Wickland Westcott got lucky in finding Mark, but if I said that Mark is the third outstanding MD John has found for me in the last 12 months, all in different sectors, but equally impressive, then you would appreciate that luck has nothing to do with it. I look forward to the next assignment.”

Sean Cooper, Chairman, Bowlplex