Simon English: It won't happen, but Cameron would benefit from sharing a tipple with Martin
Thursday 19 January 2012
Outlook: Tim Martin has been predicting the demise of the euro, sometimes with a reference to Tutankhamun (they are equally dead), since the day it was invented. Can't work, he kept saying. Won't work. Shouldn't work.
The JD Wetherspoon chairman is now edging towards being proved right, which might be cause for a celebratory pint down the local.
His own business continues to do remarkably well. Yesterday he reported rising sales over Christmas, but took little credit. They're only up because we're comparing the sales with a period of bad weather a year ago, he said.
He hasn't read the script here. Retailers and pubs are supposed to blame the weather at all times. It is too hot or too cold or a bit foggy – that's why sales are down.
That Mr Martin, below, can't be bothered with this sort of thing is typical. He doesn't much play the City game in general.
Analysts snipe. He says, well, think what you like. Then he comes back with results far better than the number-crunchers expected.
Mr Martin's view of the City is similar to his hero Warren Buffett's view of Wall Street.
"Take the high road," Mr Buffett once advised a young stockbroker. "You won't encounter much traffic."
Wetherspoon plans to open 50 more pubs this year, taking the total to around 900. There'll be 1600 Wetherspoons eventually, Mr Martin reckons.
Those new pubs will be built with as little aid from bankers as possible. Mr Martin says the one piece of good advice he ever got from a banker was not to rely on them, because they wouldn't be there when it mattered.
He took this to heart and his empire has blossomed. You can be snooty about the pubs if you like, but you're missing the point.
Providing nice surroundings where families can meet to eat and drink and talk at affordable prices is a noble venture. The business cares about its customers, and its staff, come to that. Mr Martin wouldn't care much for the accolade, but he's exactly the kind of businessman the government should be taking advice from. Mr Cameron and co seem to prefer the sort of financiers that Mr Martin would probably ban from his pubs.
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