Wetherspoons: Who is Sir Tim Martin? Founder knighted in New Year’s Honours list - what is his net worth?

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Sir Tim Martin was an outspoken critic of the European Union and the Covid lockdowns.

Outspoken JD Wetherspoon founder and Brexit supporter Tim Martin has been knighted in the New Year honours.

The businessman, whose cheap pubs are a regular sight in High Streets across the UK, has been recognised for his services to hospitality. Martin, who was highly critical of the government over Covid lockdowns, said the knighthood came as a surprise.

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“It had never been expected, so it came out the blue,” he told the PA news agency. “I always think that, in the pub world, it is a team effort – even if you’ve just got one pub there are many people involved.

“I think it’s the Wetherspoon colleagues and customers who are getting the award really, that’s the way I look at it. I’m just the lucky recipient.”

According to reports in the Daily Mail, Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch is said to have pushed for his nomination behind the scenes, arguing that Brexit-supporting entrepreneurs should not be overlooked.

Tim Martin with Boris Johnson in 2019. Credit: GettyTim Martin with Boris Johnson in 2019. Credit: Getty
Tim Martin with Boris Johnson in 2019. Credit: Getty | Getty Images

Who is Sir Tim Martin?

Martin was born into the beer trade in Norwich as his father worked for Guinness. The family moved around for his work, travelling as far as New Zealand, and Martin went to 11 different schools. 

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He trained as a barrister but bought his first pub in Muswell Hill, North London, in 1979. He initially called it Martin’s Free House but changed the name to JD Wetherspoon the following year - naming it after a teacher called Mr Wetherspoon in New Zealand who said he would never amount to much. The JD section of the name is from the Dukes of Hazzard.

The pub chain, which is well known for its low pricing, floated on the London Stock Exchange in 1992 and continued a rapid expansion across the UK. The company currently runs 816 pubs across the country.

Martin said: “If I had been any good at the law, which I wasn’t, then I probably would have stuck at that… so it’s quite lucky I wasn’t.” He said Wetherspoon owes its success to four key elements - which are partly based on a George Orwell essay - the staff, the design of the pubs, not playing “canned music”, and sticking to selling real ale.

Last month, the business revealed sales jumped by almost a tenth in its latest quarter as its value-focused food and drink drew in punters facing tighter budgets due to the cost of living crisis.

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A customer at a JD Wetherspoon pub. (Photo by Rob Pinney/Getty Images)A customer at a JD Wetherspoon pub. (Photo by Rob Pinney/Getty Images)
A customer at a JD Wetherspoon pub. (Photo by Rob Pinney/Getty Images) | Getty Images

What are Sir Tim Martin’s views on Brexit?

Martin gained notoriety in 2016 as one of the highest profile pro-Brexit business-owners. He reportedly donated £200,000 to the Vote Leave campaign as a result.

He told the New European: “I knew people who were worried about the lack of democracy … and so I only decided to go for Brexit when David Cameron came back from the EU, because it was he who said it needs – and I quote, ‘fundamental reform’, which is what I thought it needed – to be more democratic. 

“And instead of saying, ‘I didn’t get very much, I’m disappointed, but I still think we should stay in and reform from within’. He fibbed, really, and he said, ‘I’ve got reform’. And so at that point, I think I and probably millions of others decided ‘it’s better to leave’.”

Tim Martin will be the latest knight of the realm as he joins New Year's honours listTim Martin will be the latest knight of the realm as he joins New Year's honours list
Tim Martin will be the latest knight of the realm as he joins New Year's honours list | AFP via Getty Images

He published a pro-Brexit magazine in his pubs, and spent almost £100,000 on Leave beer matts. 

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After the knighthood, Martin told PA: “Everyone had a vote, everyone had a view, and I suppose I did more campaigning than most. I’d like to think that (the knighthood) is not for my rarely disclosed political views – I hope it is for what it says on the tin.”

He added: “I think the most important thing for the future of the world is that democracy takes root everywhere. I’ve always made that argument.”

The pub boss was also a significant critic of Government shutdowns of hospitality firms, and other businesses, during the coronavirus pandemic through lockdown measures.

This saw him accuse former Prime Minister Boris Johnson of “hypocrisy” during the Partygate scandal, arguing that the situation could have been avoided had pubs been allowed to remain open.

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Martin said the “financial legacy” of Covid has been inflation, which has pushed up costs for business. He added: “Most pubs have done very well to get sales back to where they were, but they haven’t quite managed to get profits back. So the industry is hopeful that over the next year or two, it can get profits back to where they were.”

What is Sir Tim Martin’s net worth?

Net worth is hard to precisely ascertain given the various components that need to be calculated. However, based on his £123 million tax bill in 2022, Martin’s net worth earlier this year was estimated to be £448 million. And according to Company Check, a website which analyses Companies House documents, Wetherspoons’ net worth was £316 billion in 2022.

Ralph Blackburn is NationalWorld’s politics editor based in Westminster, where he gets special access to Parliament, MPs and government briefings. If you liked this article you can follow Ralph on X (Twitter) here and sign up to his free weekly newsletter Politics Uncovered, which brings you the latest analysis and gossip from Westminster every Sunday morning.

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