Wetherspoons founder and chairman Tim Martin pocketed millions of pounds from selling shares while his pub chain was claiming furlough cash, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.
Mr Martin, who still owns more than a fifth of Wetherspoons, sold £50 million worth of shares in January.
Government data shows the business claimed more than £25 million in furlough money in the same month.
Wetherspoons founder and chairman Tim Martin pocketed millions of pounds from selling shares while his pub chain was claiming furlough cash, The Mail on Sunday can reveal
Last night, the outspoken businessman was facing calls to hand back the furlough funds.
Tory MP Sir Bob Neill said: ‘A number of reputable firms have returned furlough cash if they have managed to weather the Covid storm better than expected, and they’ve been applauded for it.
‘Perhaps Mr Martin might consider following suit.’
Labour MP Dame Margaret Hodge said it was ‘quite right that we set up a scheme that saves jobs’ but added: ‘He’s made £50 million from a share sale, then takes £25 million from the furlough scheme. Is that a thank you?’
Tory MP Sir Bob Neill said: ‘A number of reputable firms have returned furlough cash if they have managed to weather the Covid storm better than expected, and they’ve been applauded for it. ‘Perhaps Mr Martin might consider following suit’
The furlough scheme covers up to 80 per cent of the salary of each staff member kept on payroll but placed on temporary leave during the pandemic.
Wetherspoons, which has 875 pubs, claimed more than £97 million in the six months to the end of January, during which time its sales plummeted by over half.
A Wetherspoons spokesman said: ‘We are a huge net contributor to the Treasury. Even in the last financial year, when pubs were closed by the Government for a long period, Wetherspoons paid £436.7 million in taxes, in spite of making a loss of £89.6 million.’
He suggested the company itself had not directly benefited from the furlough payouts, adding it would be ‘incorrect to say’ the value of Mr Martin’s shares in the business had been supported by taxpayer funds.
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