Archive : Row over rival Rover bid

A row has broken out between the company planning to take over the Rover car business and the UK Government. Alchemy Partners is reported to have withdrawn co-operation from the Longbridge task force set up by the Trade and Indsutry Secretary, Stephen Byers.

The company claims there is a potential conflict of interest between the task force chairman, Alex Stephenson, and his brother Nick, who is thought to be involved in a rival bid for Rover. Newspapers have printed excerpts from a letter sent by Alchemy’s Jon Moulton to Mr Byers.

It said: “This is obviously an unacceptable basis for us to continue with the task force and we will not be doing so.” Although Alchemy has been involved since BMW decided to split up the Rover Group, there has been constant pressure for the German car maker to find another buyer.

Alchemy has made it clear that its plans will involve big job losses. It wants to rebrand the company as MG Cars and turn it into a middle-volume car producer. However, a rival proposal is being put together by a consortium headed by John Towers, a former Rover boss.

Byers brokers talks

Union leaders and BMW officials discussed the possible bid at a meeting with Mr Byers in London on Monday. Alchemy says it has confirmed that Nick Stephenson is involved in this bid, and believes this could potentially cause problems. But the Department of Trade and Industry says it does not consider there is any conflict of interest.

The 13-strong task force headed by Alex Stephenson is trying to regenerate the area as quickly as possible. As well as the job losses at Longbridge itself, there are fears that many thousands could be affected in associated businesses throughout the West Midlands.

The task force – made up of members from local councils, trade unions, local businesses, the CBI and the Employment Service – has been asked to come up with plans for several job creation schemes within a few weeks.

New bid ‘viable’

Although the proposal from Mr Towers’ consortium will involve job cuts, they will not be on the scale suggested by Alchemy. “We are now very clear that BMW is prepared to give consideration to an alternative bidder,” said Bill Morris of the Transport and General Workers Union after Monday’s meeting.

“We think the bid is a viable one. We anticipate that within a week a formal written proposal will be put to the BMW board.” Alchemy’s offer is expected to be agreed later this month if no alternative bid is put forward.

Keith Adams
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