Pizza Express wipes £400m off the debt bill in rescue deal 

Former Asda boss Allan Leighton becomes chairman of the troubled restaurant chain that has secured a restructuring deal

Former Asda boss Allan Leighton has been appointed chairman of struggling restaurant chain Pizza Express after it secured a deal to reduce its debt pile by £400m. 

The 67-year-old, who is also chairman of the Co-operative Group, will work alongside former Wagamama boss David Campbell, who has been made chief executive of Pizza Express. Mr Leighton is also a former chairman of Wagamama as well as jewellery brand Pandora.

The appointments came after Pizza Express secured a restructuring deal that will reduce its total debt from £735m to £319m, and includes the immediate injection of £40m of new capital. In addition, the chain has a further £90m of funds available from its bondholders, which took control of the business.

Zoe Bowley, managing director of Pizza Express’s UK and Ireland business, will join the group’s board alongside chief financial officer Andy Pellington. 

Mr Leighton, who made his name as boss of Asda in the 1990s, said: “This is a unique opportunity in casual dining. With a significant recapitalisation of the company, and substantial further funds committed, we look to building on our position as a leader in the casual dining market, once Covid restrictions are eased. 

“There is great future for Pizza Express delivering great pizza and a brilliant customer experience.”

Former Asda boss Allan Leighton has been appointed chairman of Pizza Express Credit: Marina Imperi

Pizza Express has been forced to cut around 2,400 jobs since the crisis began as government restrictions such as the 10pm curfew hit demand, particularly at its city centre restaurants. 

It shut 73 restaurants in September after securing the approval of a company voluntary arrangement from its landlords and other creditors. 

Mr Campbell, who is also the former chief executive of restaurateur Richard Caring’s The Ivy Collection, said: “Pizza Express is an iconic brand, which has enjoyed much success over its 55-year history. The chance to steer the company to even greater heights in the years ahead is an honour.”