Blacks Leisure Group has appointed former Esporta boss Neil Gillis as its chief executive with immediate effect.

Gillis, 42, was chief executive of Duke Street Capital-backed health and fitness club Esporta until its sale in May. Prior to that, he was a main board director and managing director of Greene King’s pub division.

Keith Fleming, who has been acting chief executive and finance director at Blacks since June, will continue as deputy chief executive and finance director.

Blacks chairman David Bernstein said: “I am delighted we have engaged someone of Neil’s ability to join Blacks Leisure. He has an excellent record of achievement and the qualities to lead our group along the road to recovery. I would like to thank Keith Fleming for his excellent work as acting chief executive.”

Gillis started his career at Procter & Gamble and spent the next 12 years working for several consumer goods companies as brand manager, marketing director and finally commercial director of Cadbury Beverages. He then moved to Heinz, where he was managing director of Linda McCartney foods from 1998 to 2000 and from there went on to Greene King.

Gillis said: “I welcome the opportunity to drive the Blacks Leisure brands and look forward to bringing my full energies to the task. This is a business in more high streets and locations across Britain than most and with a portfolio of brands with a special place in the nation’s hearts. The next few years will be full of excitement and opportunity for us.”