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Duke Street builds team

Duke Street Capital has appointed Nick Irens, Richard Stephenson and Didier Gros as operating partners. Operating partners provide top-level industry expertise to Duke Street’s investment team on deal origination, investee company management and development of strategy.

Nick Irens, currently chairman of Esporta, a health and fitness club operator in the UK, has over 20 years experience with leading companies in the UK leisure sector, a key area of focus for Duke Street Capital. In 1992, he created Vardon, now renamed Cannons Group, and was chairman of the company in 1998 when it reformed as one of the UK’s leading pure health and fitness operators. He left on its sale in July 2001. Prior to Vardon, he was finance director of First Leisure Corporation plc from 1987 to 1992.

Richard Stephenson has held a number of senior management positions, specialising in value creation through re-positioning and growing medium size businesses. In 1999 he led the MBO of Madison Filtration from Scapa Group plc, where he successfully re-developed the business, eventually selling its three operating divisions and making a return of over three times cash invested. From 1990 to 1997 he was group commercial director and sales and marketing director at Cape from 1990 to 1997, a leading industrial services and construction materials manufacturer. While at Cape he grew and diversified Cape Building Products, expanding the business in continental Europe.

Didier Gros has over 30 years of experience in the French hotel industry. In 1996 he was appointed president and chief executive of Accor Econic Hotels, the European leader in 1,000 budget hotels with over 1,000 units. Prior to this position, he was managing director of SPHERE, owners of the IBIS brand. From 1986 to 1991 he was managing director of Sofitel in Europe and Africa.