Jon Griffin, Birmingham Post, 15th September, 2009
The Phoenix Four have accused Birmingham MP John Hemming of “sour grapes” and “hot air” following threats to sue the former Rover bosses to recover millions of pounds for former workers. The Liberal Democrat MP for Yardley has held talks with Birmingham City Council leader Mike Whitby over the possibility of forming a group to take legal action against the Phoenix Four in a civil case for potential breach of trust.
The row between the two parties was reignited after last week’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills report which was critical of the directors’ period at the helm of the Longbridge giant before it collapsed in 2005. Mr Hemming, whose bid to spearhead the rescue of Rover in 2000 ended amid acrimony with John Towers and BMW, said: “I want to see what can be done to try to ensure that some of the money taken from MG Rover is recovered for the workers.
“It may be that a lawsuit is the way to do this now and I intend speaking to Mike Whitby today about this. At the moment, these are early days and I will not want to take action without the support of the workforce. But I do not think that we should close the door on this without looking at it further.”
Our experience of Mr Hemming is that he is all hot air, coupled with sour grapes, because his part in the rescue of MG Rover was terminated by BMW’s unwillingness to deal with him.” A spokesman for the Phoenix Four
Mr Hemming said he had already discussed the possibility of legal action with Carl Chinn, one of the four Trustees of the Employee Trust Fund. However, the threats triggered a furious response from the Phoenix Four, whose spokesman said: “Our experience of Mr Hemming is that he is all hot air, coupled with sour grapes, because his part in the rescue of MG Rover was terminated by BMW’s unwillingness to deal with him.”
A fraud investigation into the Phoenix Four has already been dropped after considerations by the Serious Fraud Office, ruling out criminal prosecutions. Up to £16 million pledged to former workers, raised from the sale of Studley Castle and former Rover dealerships, is set to remain untouched in a bank account for several more months whilst remaining assets and liabilities are settled.
Meanwhile, proceedings brought about by the Business Secretary, Lord Mandelson, to stop the Phoenix Four Directors from running companies again are ongoing.
[Source: Birmingham Post]
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