While the pub chain's chief executive is usually known for his Brexit rhetoric, on Wednesday he instead turned his guns on the corporate governance code, which he said is “up the spout” and has “directly led to the failure or chronic underperformance of many businesses, including banks, supermarkets, and pubs”.
“A core problem is that CG institutionalises short-termism, inexperience and navel-gazing,” Martin said.
He then slammed two of the company’s institutional shareholders, Blackrock and Columbia Threadneedle, for having previously opposed the re-election of long-serving non-executive directors despite having long-term non-execs on their own boards.
“Columbia Threadneedle has decided that one rule applies to itself, but that another should apply to Wetherspoon”, he said, adding that the pressure had compelled four of Spoons’ NEDs to offer their resignations, which had “inevitably destabilised the company in the process”.
Sales rise in first quarter
In the rest of the trading update, the company reported that like-for-like sales in the 13 weeks to 27 October had risen 5.3% and total sales by 5.6%.
The firm said it had opened one new pub since the start of the current financial year and had sold four, with 10-15 opening planned across the entire 12 months.
Looking ahead, Martin said trading for the current year is expected to be “in line with our previous expectations”.
In early trading on Wednesday, Wetherspoons shares were 0.3% lower at 1,520p.