Wetherspoon's Jim Clarke to join Countrywide

By Hamish Champ

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Real estate

Jim Clarke, JD Wetherspoon's outgoing finance director, is to join estate agent Countrywide as group finance director.Clarke, who has been with the...

Jim Clarke, JD Wetherspoon's outgoing finance director, is to join estate agent Countrywide as group finance director.

Clarke, who has been with the managed pub group for more than ten years, is set to join the private equity-owned property and financial services agency at the end of October. He is likely to take a stake in the firm on his arrival.

Wetherspoon chief executive John Hutson said an announcement regarding a replacement for Clarke would be made before his leaves, although it was not clear exactly when the new finance director, who is expected to come from outside the company, will join the group.

Wetherspoon today announced sales for 2007 up five per cent at £888.5m and pre-tax profits up six per cent up at £62m.

Noting the impact of the smoking ban, in his last results presentation for the group Clarke said Wetherspoon would be happy if the year ahead could see a repeat of the August 2007 like-for-like sales increase of 1.1 per cent.

"If a year ago you'd offered us a sales rise of 1.1 per cent in the second month of an English smoking ban we'd have bitten your hand off," he said.

"If we get through the next year with a similar increase across the board we'll be reasonably happy," he added.

When asked about Wetherspoon's increase in weekly food sales per pub - from £3,000 to more than £8,000 in a decade - Clarke took a light-hearted swipe at Greene King's recent purchase of the Loch Fyne fish restaurant chain.

"We've stuck to what we know, which is that our existing business can accommodate the sale of food on a growing scale. We don't need to go out and buy a restaurant business to do that," he said.

Chief executive Hutson agreed, noting that Wetherspoon was already the "UK's second largest restaurant chain after McDonald's".

Wetherspoon was continuing to look at options regarding its property assets - 50 per cent of which are freehold - but Clarke said there would have to be a "compelling" argument for it to become a real estate investment trust.

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