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Wetherspoon founder loses £18m after Brexit

The founder of UK pub chain Wetherspoon, who donated £224,000 in support of the ‘vote leave’ campaign, has seen £18 million wiped off the value of his shares following the EU referendum result.

JD Wetherspoon founder Tim Martin

Multi-millionaire Tim Martin campaigned for Brexit through his network of 920 pubs, even distributing vote leave beer mats to convince punters to back the leave campaign.

While Martin remains convinced of the long term benefits of the UK breaking away from the EU, in the short term the result has had a stark impact on his shares.

Wetherspoon’s share price fell from £7.57 on the day of the vote to £6.68 four days later, leaving Martin £30 million worse off, as reported by The Independent. The shares have since rallied with losses currently standing at around £18m, the paper added.

Releasing a lengthy opinion piece following the result, Martin wrote: “The EU is heading down an increasingly autocratic path, which has already caused severe economic problems in most of southern Europe, and risks further contagion on the continent. Brexit is a modern Magna Carta, reasserting democratic control in the UK. It is up to UK citizens now to participate in formulating policies based on free trade with Europe and the world, an enterprise economy and sensible immigration policies, with parliamentary control.”

The key now, according to Martin, is for the UK government to “avoid being hectored or rushed” in negotiating its exit from the European Union.

Richard Balfour-Lynn, of English sparkling wine estate Hush Heath, also backed the leave campaign, believing that a departure from the EU would be a “great opportunity” for English wine.

Reacting to the result last week Balfour said: “Leaving the EU is a great opportunity for the English wine industry to reduce duty and encourage more home-grown sales.  It may well mean that the prices of European wines increase here, and that English wine prices come down.

“Much of our export is to the US and Japan rather than the EU, and so there is unlikely to be a huge impact when it comes to the export of our premium English wines.”

Elsewhere in the UK pub industry, Young & Co.’s Brewery, which operates more than 200 pubs and owns the Burgershack & Bar brand, appeared unfazed by the EU referendum result, with the company’s chairman insisting that its was “well-positioned” to cope with the impact in its latest trading statement.

“Clearly, the result of the EU referendum has created considerable political and economic uncertainty and it would be unwise for us to speculate at this early stage on the longer-term effects on the consumer,” chairman Nick Bryan said in a trading update at the company’s AGM.

“We remain focussed on our proven strategy and are well positioned to deliver an excellent customer experience as well as superior returns for our shareholders.”

Richard Balfour-Lynn, founder of Hush Heath English sparkling wine estate

Bryan also noted that the company had made a “good start” to the year with revenues up 6.5% in the first 13 weeks of the first quarter and by 4.1% on a like-for-like basis.

Brewer Greene King Plc meanwhile has said it expects to win market share this year, despite the economic uncertainly likely to stem from Brexit. Its shares dropped by nearly 15% following the vote, as reported by Reuters.
As the UK works to find a way forward following last month’s vote, American brewers are watching with interest, and looking for an angle, it appears.

The US-based Boston Brewing Company, which makes Samuel Adams, filed an application for a ‘Brexit’ trademark on Friday, 24 June – the day the result of the EU referendum was announced. The application related to a “hard cider”, indicating that a Brexit-themed cider could soon be on its way from the brewer, which already produces the Angry Orchard hard cider brand.

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