Sunday, September 13, 2009
'The Vulture Four' Would Have Been a Better Name
It seems almost futile to get all worked up about greedy, avaricious, venal businessmen, but the devious activities of the Phoenix Four somehow makes it inevitable. These four entrpeneurs arrived like knights on white chargers to save the sole remaining UK mass car producer but the government should really have spotted the rust on ther armour and the broken down nature of their steeds. These four cowboys, with a record mostly of failure behind them were able to buy MG Rover for £10 and then milk the interest free £1bn loan from BMW to their own advantage.
Given the size of the loan they set out to milk, and their undoubted cupidity, it is surprising they did not end up with over the £42m estimate they are alleged to have made out of their various manoeuvres and scams. One of the most egregious ploys was the £1.6m paid in consultancy fees to Nick Stephenson's(one of the Four) girlfriend, Dr Li. Their brand name, 'Phoenix', a mythical bird which grew anew from its own ashes, was the cruellest of sick jokes: the 'Vulture Four' would have been more appropriate.
The Observer today notes that such behaviour by the Four:
accused in a report last week of plundering their company for personal gain, were simply pursuing to their logical conclusion certain habits of British capitalism: avoid paying tax; maximise short-term personal gain; hide poor performance in a web of technical complexity; seek exorbitant remuneration while avoiding personal accountability for risky ventures; care nothing for the wider social or economic consequences of one's actions.
To expedite their plan to milk the company dry were, 'a host of tax and share transactions, subsidies and consultancy fees that appear to show no discernible intent to improve MG Rover's core business.' The Four have hit back by accusing a typical 'New Labour witch-hunt'. Peter Mandeslon, who was keen to see these hit and run merchants arraigned in court, concluded these evasions were mere evidence of their guilt. On its own his views might not mean a great deal, but Ken Clarke on radio 4 yesterday weighed in with very similar comments. Such a consensus ensures they will occupy the same part of the public consciousness as Sir Fred Goodwin; the life cycle of a phoenix was supposed to be 500 years.
It would be only justice if unions representing those made unemployed, took up a civil action against the Four. True, the report, made no criticism of government bungling, took four years to compilke and cost £16m, enough to pay each unemployed worker £2500. But the money skimmed off by the Four would near enough treble that sum.
The Government didn't get the guarantees it should have(sound familiar?).
Hard to feel angry at these four, who just exploited a feeble government and a useless industry.
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