By Clifford Webb
Lord Stokes, British Leyland’s chairman, is understood to have written to the Prime Minister stressing the need for early government action on Sir Don Ryder’s report and recommendations for the reorganization of the corporation. Lord Stokes has pointed out that the present indecision was affecting morale at all levels and encouraging newspapers to publish “damaging conjectures” about the present condition and future structure of Britain’s biggest motor group.
He is believed to have told Mr Wilson that it would be helpful if a shortened version of Sir Don’s main findings and recommendations could be published as soon as possible, even if subsequent government action has to be delayed. For Lord Stokes and Mr John Barber, his deputy, the most unsettling aspect is the number of reports that Mr George Turnbull, the former managing director, has been approached to return as chief executive.
It is suggested that Mr Turnbull is under pressure to return from South Korea (where he is setting up a new motor industry) to take the post of managing director under a politically appointed chairman. This would rule out Lord Stokes and Mr Barber. It was because of fundamental disagreements with them that Mr Turnbull resigned 18 months ago. On a visit to Britain a fortnight ago he told friends that he could never again work with either.
The confidence of the entire British Leyland board has been undermined by a very critical report submitted to Sir Don by a group of middle managers. It complains of lack of purpose and objectives, job duplication, confused chains of command and wasteful practices. Executives of British Leyland International, the subsidiary which is responsible for all overseas operations and exports from the United Kingdom, are particularly anxious.