A former motor mechanic who switched careers to create the UK’s biggest nightclub operator is to leave the business he founded 22 years ago.
Stephen Thomas, who started Luminar from a site in King’s Lynn, currently oversees about 90 large-scale entertainment venues under the brands Oceana, Liquid and Lava & Ignite as well as the Jam House in Birmingham.
The chief executive, who is 58, will step down from the Luminar board at the end of this month and will be replaced by Simon Douglas, the former boss of music retailer Zavvi. He has also held management jobs at HMV and Virgin Retail.
The departure of Mr Thomas comes after a difficult period for the firm, which last month issued a profits warning due to the impact of severe weather on club numbers. It has also warned of the heavy toll from the recession, particularly high unemployment among its young customer base.
Mr Thomas became a regional director at Whitbread before setting up Luminar in 1988 and floating the business on the stock market in 1996. He stepped up its growth with the acquisition of 27 venues from Allied Leisure in 1999 and the addition of its main rival at the time, Northern Leisure, in 2000.
Recent changes to licensing laws, which increased competition from pubs, prompted Mr Thomas to offload many sites in order to focus the business on its large-scale branded venues.
Luminar chairman Alan Jackson said: “Stephen has pioneered many of the modern operating trends now prevalent in the industry. He leaves us a great asset base and a strong, experienced and loyal team of people.”
He added that Mr Douglas’s track record in growing consumer businesses in tough markets would serve Luminar well.
Luminar recently announced a “cross-promotional” trial with music and book retailer HMV under which Luminar nightclubs and local HMV stores will combine to attract each other’s customers.
The company said Mr Thomas will remain with the company until the end of July in order to ensure a smooth transition to his successor.