U.K.’s Bowlplex Chain to Be Acquired by TOBC

by Bob Johnson 0

The Original Bowling Company, the largest operator of bowling centers in the United Kingdom, will acquire rival Bowlplex in a deal underwritten by TOBC’s parent company, Electra Private Equity PLC (part of Electra Partners LLP).

TOBC presently operates 44 bowling centers across the U.K. — 32 under the Hollywood Bowl banner, and a dozen under the AMF brand. Company officials said the Bowlplex centers would be re-branded as Hollywood Bowl centers as part of a 3 million euro modernization project.

The deal is another step in the consolidation of the bowling industry in the U.K. TOBC was formed in 2010 when AMF Bowling’s U.K. Family Entertainment business and the Hollywood Bowl chain merged. Since then, TOBC centers have been modernized with state-of-the-art scoring and booking systems, premium restaurants, licensed bars, Costa Coffee outlets and exclusive, bookable VIP lanes.

“We have been interested in Bowlplex for some time due to the quality of its locations and complementary portfolio,” Bill Priestley of Electra Partners told The Wall Street Transcript.  “Our plan is to drive further growth through investing in the development of the existing sites and replication of Hollywood Bowl’s successful customer offering.”

Bowlplex was formed in 1976 with one center: Branksome Bowl. In 1984, Tracy Standish was hired by the company, and directed the company’s successful expansion as its managing director. Today,  Bowlplex Ltd. comprises 17 “total entertainment centers” across England, Wales and Scotland.

In recent years, Bowlplex and Sega Amusements Europe joined forces in an exclusive agreement to upgrade the arcade and gaming machines at all 17 centers, which has helped differentiate the Bowlplex brand.

"We are delighted Electra Partners are supporting us in the acquisition of Bowlplex,” said Steve Burns, CEO of TOBC. “This is an exciting and transformational development for The Original Bowling Company, and an important step in the growth strategy for our leading leisure brand, Hollywood Bowl.”

According to The Times of London, the price of the acquisition is believed to be 30 million euro. The transaction is subject to approval from the U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority.

Bob Johnson

Bob Johnson has received more national writing awards than any other bowling writer — close to 70 over the course of his 40-year career. He began at age 16 as a staff writer and then assistant editor for the weekly Pacific Bowler newspaper in his native California, and within three years was writing feature stories for Bowlers Journal. He has written for the magazine ever since, except for a five-year span when he was hired as the founding editor of another magazine. He moved to Chicago in 2000 and spent 13 years in the Windy City, including five as Bowlers Journal’s Editor. In 1975, Johnson received the Robert E. Kennedy Award as California’s top undergraduate high school journalist. Five years earlier, on the lanes, he had shared the Bantam Division Doubles championship in the Orange County Junior Bowling Association Championships. Today, he continues to work full-time for Bowlers Journal as its Senior Editor, to write his popular “Strikes Me” column, and to edit Luby Publishing Inc.’s weekly business-to-business Cyber Report.