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Tim Martin is a singular character: he does not dance to the City’s tune, or indeed do what the media expects of business tycoons. He prefers drinking wine or beer with his regulars to schmoozing stockbrokers or institutional investors. He drives a battered car and has modest tastes. Yet he is educated — he studied law at Nottingham University and is a barrister by training — and highly articulate — both verbally and in written form — about issues ranging from taxation to the EU to the financial community. He vents regularly in Wetherspoons News, a free magazine distributed in his outlets, and is a familiar figure on television shows like Question Time. He can afford to speak his mind because he has a major stake in his company which he has made a roaring success. Although some investors shun him, others are fans of his eccentric but effective management style.

He took a sabbatical from Wetherspoons some years ago to pursue several estate agents who had cheated the business. According to the judge, he won a “substantial victory” worth millions of pounds from the fraudsters, who were lucky not to be criminally prosecuted. He did it to demonstrate that professionals in the property market were abusing the trust of their clients with impunity. The case demonstrated his persistence and sense of justice. I would imagine he is not a man to cross lightly.

He has a dry wit, and is a hugely popular leader with his employees. He has made hundreds of millions of pounds, but if you met him in person you would never guess his wealth. Nevertheless, he doesn’t mind making enemies if it is for a cause in which he believes. He was one of the tiny handful of high-profile businessmen who campaigned in favour of leaving the EU, and spent weeks debating the issue with many hundreds of his customers in Wetherspoons pubs up and down the country. He felt that we needed to escape the threat of a European superstate and bring back law-making to this country. He was actually in favour of immigation and free movement, but believed that sovereignty was an overriding imperative. It didn’t make him popular among Guardianistas, but I suspect he doesn’t care. He is this country’s leading licensed victualler, and like many publicans over the centuries, has firm political views. If Britain had more of his ilk, we would be a richer and more interesting place.

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