The off-licence chains Thresher, Bottoms Up, Victoria Wine and Wine Rack are all owned by the First Quench group, which claims that 30 million people in the UK live within a 10 minute walk of one of its 2,300 stores. The Hertfordshire-based company was formed in 2000 after Japanese investment bank Nomura bought the off-licence chains for £225m from joint owners Whitbread and the Punch Pub Company. Since then the new chief executive, David Williams, has revived the fortunes of the retailer by cutting jobs and overheads and turning a £29m operating loss in 2001 into an unaudited £33m profit in 2002. Sales in the company’s latest filed accounts for 2001 reached £1.1bn, when it had 15,133 staff.
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