JD Wetherspoon founder hits out at critic of pro-Brexit spending in financial update

13 November 2019 by
JD Wetherspoon founder hits out at critic of pro-Brexit spending in financial update

JD Wetherspoon's founder and chief executive has hit out at a shareholder advisory group that questioned the company's pro-Brexit spending in the company's latest financial update.

With the company's AGM approaching, the boss of the pub giant took the opportunity to hit out at shareholder group Pirc. The group has urged investors to reject JD Wetherspoon's annual report over the company's pro-Brexit spending, which it states should have been approved via a shareholder vote.

Last year the group made an attempt to oust Martin, advising that he should not be re-elected as chairman of the pub group, which reported like-for-like sale increases of 5.3% in the 13 weeks to 27 October 2019

Within the update Martin wrote: "The corporate governance adviser Pirc recommends its clients to vote against my own re-election as chairman of Wetherspoon on the basis, inter alia, that I have been chairman for more than nine years (a milestone I hit in 1992)."

He adds: "The founder of Pirc, Alan MacDougall who still sits on his own board after 33 years (but seems to believe I shouldn't be on mine), has no relevant PLC experience having, according to his LinkedIn profile, a "BA Sociaology (sic) 2:2 — social policy and Soviet studies" and work experience at the National Union of Mineworkers and the Greater London Council."

The comments are made in a lengthy statement from Martin attacking the corporate governance code, which he says is responsible for the underperformance of many businesses and tries to block board members from long-service.

Martin added: "City regulators and lawmakers should make haste. Even Wetherspoon, a medium-sized company, has 42,000 employees, 13,000 of whom are shareholders, and it contributes about one pound in every thousand of UK taxes (£764m in 2019) — it's not in anyone's interest to kill a golden goose.

"But, perhaps above all, no sensible business, looking to the long term and genuinely apprised of the reality of the CG system, would float on the London stock market today - who wants to guarantee eventual destruction, after all?"

Since the start of the financial year the pub giant has opened one new venue and disposed of four, with 10 to 15 more sites planned.

The company has continued to focus on buying the freeholds of pubs it was previously a tenant in as well as buying back £6.4m of shares.

The update added: "We continue to anticipate a trading outcome for this financial year in line with our previous expectations."

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