2020 will go down in history as one of the most challenging years ever faced by businesses across the country.

However, for Blackburn-born EG Group owners Mohsin and Zuber Issa the year was also one of huge opportunity as the billionaire duo entered the economic stratosphere was a series of deals that put them and the town on the global business map.

The Issa brothers, who grew up in the Brookhouse area of the town, founded Euro-Garages in 2001with a single petrol station in Bury which then grew into the international EG Group petrol forecourt company.

As we enter 2021, we look back on how 2020 fared for Blackburn’s wealthiest sons.

Stanley House

Lancashire Telegraph:

Early in the year, the brothers announced major investments were in store for the Ribble Valley’s iconic Stanley House hotel.

The plans were revealed in February after initial fears that the venue, which the brothers had acquired the previous year, was set to close.

Instead plans to transfer ownership of the site to the brother’s Monte Hotel business helped to secure the jobs of the 85 people employed at Stanley House, which proved to be a vital lifeline in a year in which the hospitality industry was hit hard by the pandemic.

The brothers then confirmed the appointment of new general manager Simon Tauber in September, to lead the venue into its new era.

Mr Tauber said: “My goal is to build on our reputation and take the hotel to the next level in terms of facilities and guest experience.

“The new owners are ambitious and passionate about the future and I feel we are the start of an exciting journey and look forward to sharing our plans.”


Lancashire Telegraph:

The business event of the year was of course the Issa Brothers’ acquisition of supermarket chain Asda from American firm Walmart.

The deal was first proposed in March, when Walmart indicating that it wished to sell its stake, with the brothers amongst several potential bidders.

Speculation gathered pace as the year wore on, with the £6.8 billion deal finally announced in October.

New plans include trialling plastic free stores and opening ‘Asda on the Move’ branches in transport hubs, the first of which opened at Primley Service Station on the A454 in Walsall shortly after the deal was announced in October.

However, some of the brothers’ plans have proved to be controversial, the GMB union condemning moves to sell off Asda’s logistics hubs as ‘asset stripping’, while the deal itself was investigated by the Competition and Markets Authority over concerns that such a large acquisition could reduce competition in the petrol forecourt market.

Caffé Nero

Lancashire Telegraph:

Attempts to purchase coffee chain Caffé Nero proved much more challenging for the Brothers however, with the company opting for insolvency rather than be taken over by EG Group.

In response EG Group prepared a legal challenge in December to derail Caffé Nero’s insolvency plans, giving the coffee no option but to put itself up for sale.

New Headquarters

Lancashire Telegraph:

In keeping with the company’s rising status, 2020 also saw EG Group move into a new £35 million head office on Haslingden Road, Blackburn in August.

The new venue has 36 meeting rooms and can accommodate up to 700 staff with room for more in the future, making it one of the largest commercial building projects of its kind in the region.

EG Group planning and permit director Tom Jeremiah said: “This feels like our home already and the staff are loving their new surroundings.

“Blackburn with Darwen have been good to us and this is a way of repaying our staff who deserve this for all their hard work. It is recognition of all the efforts.”

Giving back

Lancashire Telegraph:

Aside from growing their business, the last year also saw the Issa brothers turn their attention to charitable causes, most prominently with plans to invest over £5 million in what they said would be an ‘iconic’ new Mosque on the junction of Preston New Road, Billinge End Road and Buncer Lane.

The Mosque is set to act as a Muslim place of worship while also including a community centre where people of all faiths can congregate.

Chairman of the Lancashire Council of Mosques Maulana Rafiq Sufi said: “This mosque will be good for the community and a real asset to the whole of Blackburn. The Issa bothers do a lot of charitable work in their hometown and this is another aspect of that.”

During the same year, the brothers donated £350,000 to East Lancashire Hospitals Trust and announced a new partnership with the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital Charity.

Zuber Issa said: "The NHS is a blessing for the community and its staff members are heroes.

"We’d like to say thank you to all of them, on behalf of our company, our staff and our families."