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Posted on February 25, 2005 | Tags:
Orlando, Fla., February 25, 2005 – Hard Rock International today announced its earnings for 2004 as part of a report issued by its parent company, The Rank Group Plc (NASDAQ: RANKY).

Hard Rock's total revenues for the year were $426 million versus $382 million for 2003 – a growth of 11.5%. Operating profit showed a 35.3% increase with $51.0 million for 2004 versus $37.7 million for the same period in 2003, prior to exceptional items.

"Hard Rock Cafe's like-for-like sales returned to positive territory in 2004, and investments made in extending the brand into hotels and casinos are now starting to deliver real returns to Hard Rock," said Hamish Dodds, president and CEO of Hard Rock International. "Against a background of improving performance in the cafes, at the conclusion of 2004 there was more than $1 billion of third party investment in Hard Rock branded casino and hotel developments which delivered solid contributions to our 2004 results. As we look forward to 2005, we are already engaged in a number of exciting new projects which we are confident will continue to enhance the value of our brand throughout the world."

Restaurant Performance
Overall cafe sales were up by 9.0% versus the same period last year. In the company-owned cafes, like-for-like sales for the year were up 0.4% driven by a recovery in Europe +4.9%, while North America was slightly below last year (-1.0%). Overall food and beverage sales were up 3.4% and merchandise sales were down 5.0%.

Profits from company-owned cafes increased 18.7% contributing $47.2 million for 2004 versus $39.8 million for 2003, prior to exceptional items. The improvement in profitability was particularly notable in the second half of the year and reflects the results of a detailed review and reassessment of cafe performance with an improved focus on margin management. Additionally, profits from franchised cafes and other income increased 4.1% with $9.9 million for 2004 versus $9.5 million for 2003.

Within Hard Rock Cafe, four new company-owned locations opened this year – in Bristol, United Kingdom in April, Louisville, Kentucky in May, Destin, Florida in July, and at the Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut in August. The Fort Lauderdale cafe was relocated to within the larger of the two Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casinos, in Hollywood, Florida and opened in May 2004. Also in November, after 20 years on its 57th Street site, Hard Rock International announced its New York cafe is relocating to Times Square during the third quarter of 2005. In its new location, the cafe is set to become a New York landmark featuring a 700-seat restaurant, a 1,500 square-foot retail shop and a live music area for concerts and special events.

Eight new franchised cafes opened in 2004. In Europe, new cafes opened in Catania, Italy, in February, Dublin, Ireland in June, Athens, Greece in September and Gothenburg, Sweden in December. South/Central America also had franchise growth with the openings of Buenos Aires, Argentina in May and Panama in September. The Middle East also had two franchised openings including Hurghada, Egypt and Kuwait City, Kuwait, in November. In 2005, new franchised cafes are scheduled to open in Belo Horizonte (Brazil), Canary Islands, Caracas (Venezuela) and Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic), with additional franchise deals in various stages of development.

Hotel and Casino Performance
Hotel and casino franchise income contributed profits of $18.1 million in 2004, reflecting another good performance by the Orlando hotel, dividends from the Group's interest in the Universal Rank Hotel partnership in Orlando, fees relating to the hotel joint venture with Sol Meliá and the first time contribution of fees from the two Seminole hotel and casinos that opened in Tampa and Hollywood, Florida. Continued record occupancy and room rate at the Orlando hotel coupled with solid performances at the two major hotel and casino developments on the Seminole Tribe of Florida's properties are indications of Hard Rock's true potential as a hotel and casino brand. The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casinos were only open for a partial year, and a full year's contribution will be a further boost to performance in 2005.

The hotel joint venture with Sol Meliá announced in July its plan to open a Hard Rock Hotel in New York City in 2006. The Paramount Hotel will, after undergoing a major refurbishment, operate under the Hard Rock Hotel brand and become the third hotel within the joint venture – Chicago opened in January 2004 and San Diego, a franchised hotel, is expected to open in 2006. In November, the joint venture announced Europe's first Hard Rock Hotel in Madrid. Scheduled to open in late 2005, the Tryp Reina Victoria Hotel, in the heart of Madrid's old city, will be refurbished and re-branded Hard Rock Hotel Madrid, offering the finest services and facilities for both business and leisure travelers.

The $235 million development of the new Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Biloxi, Mississippi, is well underway and on track to open in the third quarter of 2005. The company continues to explore other opportunities to license the Hard Rock brand for gaming projects both in the United States and internationally, and recently hired a seasoned gaming executive Michael Soll as Vice President of Casinos to further this strategy.

Exceptional items
Hard Rock, following a detailed review of asset portfolio and in furtherance of its focus on its core businesses, decided to relocate a number of key cafes, starting with New York, to close The Vault, a rock and roll museum in Orlando, and to write down a number of underperforming cafe units. The effect of these actions has meant that an exceptional charge of $57.0 million has been included in the 2004 results.

Hard Rock International, one of the most globally-recognized music, entertainment and dining brands, has 122 signature Hard Rock Cafes in 41 countries and owns the world's greatest collection of music memorabilia. Known for its collectible and fashion merchandise, live concerts, Hard Rock Live performance venues, hardrock.com and Hard Rock Hotels and Casinos, Hard Rock International, Inc. is a wholly-owned subsidiary of London-based The Rank Group Plc (NASDAQ: RANKY). For more information on Hard Rock, visit www.hardrock.com.
Posted on February 24, 2005 | Tags:
Orlando, Fla., February 24, 2005 -- Hard Rock International (www.hardrock.com), a wholly owned subsidiary of The Rank Group Plc (Nasdaq:RANKY), announced today that it has selected Duncan/Channon of San Rafael, Calif. as its agency of record. In an effort budgeted at $15 million in 2005, the agency is assigned to update Hard Rock's identity, create its first TV branding campaign and develop retail TV, print and collateral for its network of signature cafes and hotels and casinos.

Duncan/Channon brings more than 15 years of experience, designing ads and creating branding campaigns for major entertainment and consumer clients including Allied-Domecq Wines, Heavenly Ski Resort, Sega USA, ABC television and Konami USA. Before founding Duncan/Channon, creative director Robert Duncan was a well-known rock critic, author and former managing editor of the legendary rock magazine Creem.

"Duncan/Channon boasts a unique background in music and pop culture, which is a perfect complement to Hard Rock's atmosphere, image and attitude," said Sean Dee, chief marketing officer of Hard Rock International. "We are thrilled to be working with Duncan/Channon and are confident that the agency's experience and creativity will help us continue to keep the Hard Rock brand top of mind with guests and rock stars alike."

"Hard Rock is a company that not only owns a lot of the history of rock 'n' roll, it's part of that history," said Duncan/Channon creative director Robert Duncan. "In contrast to its would-be imitators, the so-called 'theme' restaurants, this is a brand with a real soul. We couldn't be more excited to help."

Hard Rock was founded as a Southern-style diner in London in 1971 by two young American expatriates. With its rock atmosphere and late hours, it quickly became a haven for rock stars, one of whom -- Eric Clapton -- put his guitar on the wall as a way of holding a table. From that single cafe and single guitar, Hard Rock has grown to include cafes, hotels and casinos on six continents and owns the world's greatest collection of rock 'n' roll artifacts.

About Duncan/Channon
Duncan/Channon was founded in 1990 by Duncan and co-creative director Parker Channon. A third partner, fellow Foote, Cone & Belding alumnus Andy Berkenfield, joined as general manager in 2000. Based in Marin County, California, Duncan/Channon offers the full range of strategic, creative, account and media services. The agency is also a member of the IN Network, a cooperative association of 72 agencies in 67 countries around the world.

About Hard Rock International
Hard Rock Cafe International, one of the most globally-recognized music, entertainment and dining brands has a network of 122 signature Hard Rock Cafes in 41 countries and owns the world's greatest collection of music memorabilia. Known for its collectible and fashion merchandise, live concerts, Hard Rock Live performance venues, hardrock.com and Hard Rock Hotels and Casinos, Hard Rock Cafe International, Inc. is a wholly-owned subsidiary of London-based The Rank Group Plc (NASDAQ: RANKY). For more information on Hard Rock, visit www.hardrock.com.
Posted on February 16, 2005 | Tags:
Designer Gibson Guitar Auction to Benefit The Expedition Inspiration Fund for Breast Cancer Research
Orlando, Fla., February 16, 2005 – Music and entertainment superstars including Sheryl Crow, Rod Stewart, Ellen DeGeneres, Melissa Etheridge, David Carradine, Mick Fleetwood, Joe Perry of Aerosmith and Brian Johnson of AC/DC are joining forces in an effort to raise money and awareness to help in the fight against breast cancer. On May 3, 2005 Hard Rock Cafe Los Angeles will host the first ever "Designer Gibson Guitar Auction" to benefit the Expedition Inspiration Fund for Breast Cancer Research.

Expedition Inspiration, the national nonprofit organization that raises awareness and funds for breast cancer research, and Hard Rock Cafe will auction 50 Gibson Les Paul SG Special guitars decorated by music and entertainment superstars live at the Cafe and online at www.juliensauctions.com. Musical giant Gibson Guitar has donated the guitars that will feature the original artwork of the celebrity who designed it. Money raised will go to promote promising new research at the USC/Norris and UCLA/Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Centers, both leaders in cancer prevention and research.

"Breast cancer is the leading cause of death for women 35 to 54, and Expedition Inspiration has been instrumental in calling attention to the breast cancer epidemic and desperate need for a cure," said Téa Leoni, actress and auction chair for Expedition Inspiration. "We are proud to partner with Hard Rock Cafe and Gibson Guitar to bring this unique auction that will widely appeal to music and entertainment fans and hopefully raise a lot of money."

Owners of the world's greatest collection of rock 'n' roll memorabilia and supporters of various philanthropic causes since it was founded in London in 1971, Hard Rock Cafe is a natural venue for this event that allows celebrities to showcase their creativity and decorate guitars for charity.

Brian Siemienas, Director of Marketing, Hard Rock International commented, "Hard Rock's business and abiding passion is to make the earth a safer, healthier and better place to live, and we are grateful that the participating celebrities share our vision."

The live Expedition Inspiration auction at Hard Rock Cafe Los Angeles begins at 8:30 p.m. on May 3, 2005, and is by invitation only. However, online bidding for the specially designed Gibson guitars will open to the general public prior to the event on April 24, 2005 at www.juliensauctions.com.

"Gibson Guitar is proud to be part of such an exciting and worthwhile event," said Henry Juszkiewicz, Chairman and CEO, Gibson Guitar. "The musicians who are designing these guitars continue to be leaders in the music industry and much like Gibson Guitar work to contribute to worthy causes such as this. We join in this effort to help find the cure."

About Expedition Inspiration
Expedition Inspiration is a national nonprofit organization that raises awareness and funds to benefit breast cancer research through research project funding, public education, and patient support. Additionally, through organized and sponsored outdoor endeavors, Expedition Inspiration promotes the physical and mental well being of breast cancer survivors. Since its inception in 1993, Expedition Inspiration has been instrumental in calling attention to the breast cancer epidemic and the urgent need to find a cure. For more information, please visit www.expeditioninspiration.org.

About Gibson Guitar
Gibson is known worldwide for producing classic models in every major style of fretted instrument. Founded in 1894 in Kalamazoo, MI, and headquartered in Nashville since 1984, Gibson Guitar Corporation's family of brands includes Epiphone, Dobro, Kramer, Steinberger, Tobias, Slingerland and Maestro. Baldwin, founded in 1862 in Cincinnati, is one of the oldest and most respected American piano makers, and the Baldwin Company, which also includes Wurlitzer, joined the Gibson family in 2001. Gibson's new digital guitar represents the biggest technological advance for the electric guitar since the instrument was invented 70 years ago. Visit Gibson's website at www.gibson.com or www.gibson.com/press.

About Hard Rock Cafe
Hard Rock Cafe International, one of the most globally-recognized music, entertainment and dining brands, has a network of 122 signature Hard Rock Cafes in 41 countries and owns the world’s greatest collection of music memorabilia. Known for its collectible and fashion merchandise, live concerts, Hard Rock Live performance venues, hardrock.com and Hard Rock Hotels and Casinos, Hard Rock Cafe International, Inc. is a wholly-owned subsidiary of London-based The Rank Group Plc (NASDAQ: RANKY). For more information on Hard Rock, visit www.hardrock.com.
Posted on February 14, 2005 | Tags:
ORLANDO, Fla., February 14, 2005 -- Hard Rock (www.hardrock.com), a wholly owned subsidiary of The Rank Group Plc (Nasdaq:RANKY), announced today that Michael Soll has been named Vice President of Casinos.

Soll brings more than 10 years of experience in the casino industry, encompassing the major gaming jurisdictions, to Hard Rock. For the past three years, Soll has been Vice President of Planning and Development for Caesars Entertainment in Las Vegas where he gained extensive experience identifying and implementing new development opportunities in existing and emerging U.S., international and tribal gaming jurisdictions. Prior to joining Caesars, Soll worked in senior positions at Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Bear Stearns & Co. and Innovation Group.

Soll will oversee and direct worldwide casino development for the Hard Rock brand.

In addition to Hard Rock's global cafe portfolio, the brand has licensed rights to ten fullservice hotels, including Hard Rock Hotel and Casinos in Tampa, Hollywood, Fla., Las Vegas and Biloxi (opening in 2005) and two Hard Rock Casinos in Manchester and London, England.

Commenting on the appointment, Hamish Dodds, president and CEO of Hard Rock International, said, "We are thrilled that Michael will be joining the Hard Rock team and we are confident that his broad industry experience will enable us to accelerate our development in this key strategic segment."

Soll, a University of Wisconsin graduate, received his M.S. in Urban and Regional Planning from LSUNO College of Urban Science in New Orleans. He has recently relocated to Orlando from Las Vegas with his wife and two children.

About Hard Rock International
Hard Rock Cafe International, one of the most globally-recognized music, entertainment and dining brands has a network of 122 signature Hard Rock Cafes in 41 countries and owns the world's greatest collection of music memorabilia. Known for its collectible and fashion merchandise, live concerts, Hard Rock Live performance venues, hardrock.com and Hard Rock Hotels and Casinos, Hard Rock Cafe International, Inc. is a whollyowned subsidiary of London-based The Rank Group Plc (NASDAQ: RANKY). For more information on Hard Rock, visit www.hardrock.com.
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