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Wetherspoon may open pubs in Paris

JD Wetherspoon, the rapidly expanding pub group, said yesterday it was looking to make its first foray overseas by opening a chain of pubs in Paris. Tim Martin, the group's chairman, said he was looking at sites in Paris and was also considering opening pubs in capital cities across Europe.

Wetherspoon also moved to deflect criticism that Mr Martin wielded too much power at the group by promoting the operating director, John Hutson, to managing director.

Mark McQuater, Wetherspoon's previous managing director, resigned last November after less than three years with the company, amid speculation that Mr Martin was unwilling to relinquish control of the group he founded. Mr Martin did concede yesterday that the group needed to strengthen its board to reflect the expansion the business.

On expansion, Mr Martin said: "There are more Britons in Paris than there are in Reading and we have four pubs in Reading. We also like the idea of moving into Ireland."

Wetherspoon has also embarked on an accelerated UK pub opening programme.

It plans to open 350 outlets by 2001 at a rate of more than one a week.

The group is intent on growing its presence outside London and has recently opened pubs in Edinburgh and Glasgow.