Sir Terry goes to Hollywood Blvd

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Can Tesco chief executive Sir Terry Leahy hold his own with David Bowie, Charlie Sheen, Gloria Estefan and Big Bird from Sesame Street?

Tesco is to set up shop at 7021 Hollywood Boulevard, in a building that overlooks the famous names celebrated in pavement stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It is also just a block from the Kodak Theater, site of the annual Oscar ceremonies.

The store’s location, amid crowds of tourists in once sleazy but steadily improving Hollywood, is likely to make it the star of Tesco’s US venture, a network of Fresh & Easy mini-supermarkets.

So far, the FT has identified slightly more than 50 new store locations, most of them in the far less glamorous suburbs of Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix and Las Vegas.

Tesco has also established a presence in Colorado, leading to speculation that it may start accumulating land there for the next stage of its US venture, on which it has said it will invest up to £250m a year.

The Hollywood store will be on the ground floor of the Galaxy building, a former multiplex cinema and shopping complex. Its current tenants include an LA Fitness gym, a discount shoe store and the Knitting Factory jazz club.

Josh Williams, editor at the Curbed LA real estate blog that spotted the news, says the Galaxy complex “has a lot of foot traffic from tourists”. But it is, he adds, a good distance from new upmarket residential buildings that are part of the area’s renaissance.

“I’m not sure how they’re going to get the locals to actually fight the tourist crowds and traffic to get to the store,” he says.

Tesco will not be the first British retailer to target the boulevard of dreams – a giant Virgin Megastore opened in a shopping complex adjacent to the Kodak Theater in 2005.

But Tesco must be hoping that its store doesn’t go the way of another former tenant, the Hollywood Entertainment Museum, a collection of TV and cinema memorabilia including Star Trek and Cheers sets, which closed last year.

Another casualty

Australian property group comes to Britain, messes up big project: Multiplex, right?

Yes. But now also Lend Lease, which on Wednesday reported a hit to profits from delays at its £382m Manchester Joint Hospitals Project scheme. The group’s construction arm has taken a £48m write-down.

Imminent news of a big housing contract at Stratford City, east London, should mitigate the pain.

Les jeux sont faits

Fouad al-Zayat, a Syrian-born businessman and gambler, was ordered on Wednesday to pay a £2m debt to Aspinall’s Club.

The High Court judgment related to an occasion in 2000 when al-Zayat was in a dispute about croupiers at the London casino.

Over 12 years, according to the judgment, al-Zayat visited Aspinall’s more than 600 times, buying more than £91m in gaming tokens and losing more than £23m.

Al-Zayat also figured this week in courtroom news from across the Atlantic.

It was revealed in the trial of an aide to former Republican congressmen Bob Ney, that Ney had kept thousands of dollars from al-Zayat in a safe in his office. The fund was made public when the aide, William Heaton, pleaded guilty to conspiracy.

In his own trial for corruption, Ney – who was sentenced in January to 30 months in prison – admitted accepting accommodation, flights and gambling chips from al-Zayat.

Mood swings

What better than a night out to take minds off Tuesday’s stock market carnage in the mid-cap sector? That was the challenge of Wednesday night’s M&A awards organised by M&A Magazine. And the choice of personality of the year – Patrick McKenna of Ingenious Media – could be counted on to lift spirits.

McKenna, former chief executive of Lord Lloyd-Webber’s Really Useful Group, set up Ingenious in 1998. He co-brokered Robbie Williams’ £80m recording deal with EMI.

Other winners included deal maker of the year Peter Cullum, chairman of Towergate, the acquisitive insurance broker. www.manda-awards.co.uk

Roundabouts

Julian Walker is putting a Hogarth in the place of his Gainsborough.

Walker, one of the Gainsborough trio that decided to dissolve their financial PR firm, starts on March 1 as a director of the rival company that also bears an artist’s name. His colleagues Andy Cornelius and Duncan Murray had already gone to College Hill.

Walker’s new employer was officially named after Hogarth House, next door to which the founders did their plotting to set up the firm in 1997. But managing partner John Olsen says, in truth, his wife thought of the name while stuck in west London traffic at the Hogarth roundabout.

mudlark@ft.com

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