By Frank Thorne and Brian Cashinella
Sacked British Leyland boss John Barber is the “scapegoat” in the Governments’ £2,800 million rescue plan for the ailing car firm, his wife said, last night. Choking back her tears Mrs Babette Barber said: “Lord Stokes took him to one side and quietly told him he’d got the sack. When he came home and told me I was shattered. British Leyland was John’s whole life.”
But there were no hard feelings against chairman Lord Stokes, said Mrs Barber. “We are still good friends”.
Mr Barber, who is 56, is replaced as managing director by an “unknown,” 48-year-old accountant Alex Park, while Lord Stokes is to become “honorary president”. Mrs Barber, in blue corduroy skirt and flowered chiffon blouse, went to the hairdresser’s yesterday. “I had to do something to cheer myself up”, then, was driven back to her £120,000 house at Upshire, Essex, in a chauffeured British Leyland 4-2 litre Daimler.
How did she feel about her husband being ousted from his £40,000 a-year job?
“Well, that’s the way it is in business,” she said. “Like: any good wife: I usually take a back seat in these things but I can’t.stand by without saying something about what has happened today.”
What does the future hold?
“All John and I want to do immediately is stay at home and have a nice long, quiet rest to think things over,” said Mrs Barber. Lady Stokes, the chairman’s wife, said: “The company needs the money. Something is being done, and that is the most important thing. I’m very happy.”
The “unknown” wife in the crisis is Margaret Park, mother of four sons. At their £80,000 house at Purley, Surrey , with a Mini parked outside . She said her husband was having a quiet meal. “He is very tired, it has been a very busy day,” said Mrs Park, adding: “It is not the family who has been appointed, it is him.”
Alex Park went to school in Middlesbrough, moved on to take a degree in engineering, and then during a career which involved stints with chemicals giant Monsanto and Cummins Engineering qualified as a cost accountant. He gave up a job as financial director of’ Rank Xerox to join British Leyland in a similar post-in 1973. A former colleague said: “He has charm but a real North Country bluntness.”