Rugby legend George Gregan’s coffee and restaurant empire crumbles
Rugby legend George Gregan’s coffee and restaurant empire crumbles

Rugby legend’s vast empire crumbles

At its height it had as many as 30 bars, restaurants and cafes stretched across several states but the hospitality group established by George Gregan and his wife Erica has been placed in administration.

The Australian reports GG Leasing, which was established while the rugby legend was at the peak of his powers with the Wallabies and trades as GG Espresso, Eagle Lane Bistro, The George Bar and Bistro and Sydney Opera House Green Room, hopes to find a way to stay afloat.

SV Partners has been appointed to manage the situation and has already closed two of the nine venues which were still trading across Sydney and Brisbane. About 10 of 65 staff have been laid off.

HOW THE BUSINESS STARTED

Gregan was one year away from helping the Wallabies win the 1999 World Cup when he stood at Sydney's Wynyard train station during the morning rush-hour and began counting the number of commuters exiting the platform.

Only 25 at the time, the scrum-half who would go on to captain his country and become its highest-ever internationally-capped player, was eyeing a vacant premises outside the station.

So he did his background checks to work out the level of passing trade and by 2015 had 16 GG Espresso cafes across Sydney that were part of a wider business that had annual revenues of more than $10 million and employed 280 people.

George Gregan and his wife Erica at one of their restaurants in Brisbane.
George Gregan and his wife Erica at one of their restaurants in Brisbane.

George's profile as one of the most recognisable faces in Australian sport certainly helped the business in its early days but it was Erica - who is the company's sole director - who had extensive experience in the hotel and restaurant sector and helped the business flourish.

"My wife is very driven," Gregan told the BBC in 2015. "If you ever met her, she is very good at opening shops, and is really keen to do it well, and have a consistency in the level of our service."

WHERE IT WENT WRONG

But like many hospitality businesses GG Leasing has been hit hard by COVID-19 - and by the end of JobKeeper at the end of this month.

"This was quite a large business. At one stage at its height it probably had in the vicinity of 30 bars, restaurants and cafes going at once,'' SV Partners director Ian Purchas said.

"Over recent years and I think during COVID-19 it's worked its way down to the nine stores that were operating when I was appointed on Friday.

"Since Friday I have closed two stores. I'm trying to come to some accommodating arrangement with the landlords of four other stores, and one of the stores comes off lease at the end of this month so it's not being renewed.

"Out of the nine the company will definitely go forward with two of them and hopefully another four.''

George Gregan hugs his wife Erica and son Max after the 2003 Rugby World Cup Final. (AAP Image/Dean Lewins)
George Gregan hugs his wife Erica and son Max after the 2003 Rugby World Cup Final. (AAP Image/Dean Lewins)

 

Originally published as Rugby legend's vast empire crumbles


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