A major British pub chain's chairman used its earnings statement to rant about Brexit, 'the establishment,' and 'doomsters'

  • The chairman of JD Wetherspoon, a British pub chain with a £1.4 billion market cap, published a lengthy Brexit rant in the company’s latest earnings statement.
  • Tim Martin attacked opponents of Brexit, misspelled Warren Buffett’s name three times, and complained about the rules for UK companies.

The chairman and founder of a major British pub chain attacked opponents of Brexit, misspelled Warren Buffett’s name three times, and complained about rules for UK companies in his official commentary on the £1.4 billion market-cap company’s half-year earnings.

JD Wetherspoon’s Tim Martin, a vocal Brexit supporter, wasted no time getting his views across. “The vexed debate about Brexit has continued since the referendum, nearly three years ago,” he wrote in a release on Friday.

“Although the public voted to leave, the majority of ‘the establishment,’ including most MPs, most universities, the Bank of England, the [Confederation of British Industry] and media organisations such as The Times, the Financial Times and The Economist favoured ‘Remain.'”

The firm’s 900 pubs – known for old-fashioned decor, gambling machines, and fish-and-chip-dinner deals – are scattered throughout the UK. Martin spent little time discussing the company’s results. Same store sales rose 7% in the 26 weeks to January 27, but operating profit plunged 14%.

Martin instead complained about the EU becoming “progressively less democratic,” and “doomsters” predicting the UK “will go to hell in a handcart without a ‘deal’ from the EU.”

He followed up his Brexit diatribe with a critique of corporate governance rules in the UK. He misspelled Warren Buffett’s surname as “Buffet” three times.

Martin lashed out at “absurd” suggested term limits for independent non-executive directors, the “obsession” with tying bonuses to targets, and the “counterproductive” rule barring chief executives from becoming chairmen.

He also attacked compliance organisations that have “consistently ignored” Wetherspoon’s explanations for not complying and even “advised clients to vote against my own job as chairman.”

Martin suggested further reading in the appendices. These included an article in The Spectator entitled “No deal? No problem,” a recent article he wrote in the company magazine about Oxford and Cambridge “orthodoxy,” and an extract from a Berkshire Hathaway shareholder letter.

Martin, who donated £200,000 to the Vote Leave campaign in 2016, is no stranger to controversy. Last summer, he announced the company would phase out European products, replacing Prosecco and Champagne with Australian and British wines.

He also included his pro-Brexit commentary on national newspaper columns in an issue of the company magazine mailed out earlier this year.

The lower earnings reflected a £33 million jump in labour costs as the company raised wages following a strike over pay last year, plus higher repairs and utilities expenses.

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