News : Former MG Rover workers get £3 pay-off

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

Simon Goodley

MG Rover enquiry update

Former MG Rover workers are to be rewarded with compensation of just £3 each following a seven-year battle for redundancy payments in the wake of the collapse of Britain’s last major carmaker.

News of the tiny payouts was announced to campaigners at a meeting on Monday and has led to calls for personal donations to the workers’ compensation fund from the so-called Phoenix Four – John Towers, Nick Stephenson, John Edwards and Peter Beale – the businessmen who bought the company for £10 in 2000 and then paid themselves and managing director Kevin Howe a total of £42m.

Carl Chinn, a trustee of the former employees’ fund, said: “I hope they will search their conscience to see if they can find the goodwill to help those who have lost so much. But as they have been ignoring my calls for four or five years, I’m not holding out much hope.”

Chinn said a request for contributions had been put to representatives of the quartet, who last May were disqualified from working as company directors in Britain for a total of 19 years.

A spokesman for the four said: “All we would want to say is that the request has been noted.”

Former Longbridge employee Oliver Thomas, of the Justice for Rover Workers group, said: “[The Phoenix Four and Howe] have ignored pleas from Carl Chinn, numerous MPs, the archbishop of York and myself to end this matter with a contribution already, so I’ve limited hope this time around.”

MG Rover workers and campaigners had been hoping for £10m-30m to be paid into the trust fund following the liquidation of assets from within the Phoenix group of companies that owned MG Rover and its businesses.

Shortly after Rover’s 2005 collapse, Towers said: “What we are trying to do is place a fortune into the benefit of all of the employees. We’ve launched the employee trust …

“That’s got gross assets in excess of £50m. There are clearly creditors to pay … but I’m very confident it will have millions of pounds available for those employees.”

However, the fund has ended up with just over £22,000 in its coffers, which it needs to share among approximately 6,500 workers who lost their jobs.

Hopes of securing a further £12.5m have just been dashed in the high court, which ruled that MG Rover’s former parent Phoenix Venture Holdings was not entitled to more information about monies paid to creditor HBOS by administrators PricewaterhouseCoopers in 2005.

A spokesman for Lloyds Banking Group, the part-taxpayer-owned bank that now owns HBOS, said: “As a major lender to MG Rover we made losses from its collapse. We therefore have a duty to our shareholders, including the taxpayer, to try to minimise these losses. Along with other creditors, we are seeking to do this through the normal recoveries process.”

A final pot of cash containing £23m from within a company called MG Rover Capital is currently frozen by the pensions regulator, which has until the end of this year to state whether it will make a claim. Should the funds be released, the money will be split between shareholders of the company, which is 51% owned by HBOS and 49% by Phoenix Venture Holdings directors.

A spokesman for the Phoenix Four declined to say if the businessmen would give the windfall to former workers, should they receive their £11m share.

Campaigners said that Howe, who has not faced official sanction, should also contribute to the compensation fund.

While his old colleagues were being barred from acting as company directors last year, the carmaker’s former managing director was being registered as a member of a limited liability partnership called The Exit Partnership – a role that encompasses almost identical responsibilities and restrictions to a director of a company. He is now understood to be working in the US.

When Phoenix acquired Rover in May 2000, they did so with the enthusiastic backing of the then Labour government as well as jubilant Rover workers who hailed Towers as he arrived at the Longbridge plant in a Rover 75, chanting: “There’s only one John Towers”.

The then industry secretary Stephen Byers was also cheered by MPs when he announced the deal.

[Source: The Guardian]

41 Comments

  1. While £3 each is pretty insulting.

    I think the directors paying themselves £42m over the 5 years the company was running, is a little irrelevant. I mean if we say the average salary at the plant was £20k a year (and i think the average was more than that) then that means that the average worker walked away with £100k across the 5 years the firm was running. £100k they wouldn’t have had if as BMW wanted, the place was closed down in 2000.

    While MGR was a fairly small car manufacturer, as ‘companies’ go it was a pretty big one and the sums paid to the directors as salary wasn’t really an unreasonable figure. Compared to many bankers who’ve arguably affected far more people by their mistakes the salary is tiny.

  2. What about stautory rdundancy payments? Was that paid in 2005? I presumed this was a legal entitlement

  3. If you have no money then statutory redundancy does not apply, afterall who would pay for it?

    £3 is a joke though, be better off not bothering. The admin on that alone makes it pointless.

  4. This disgusting,derisory and insulting disgraceful offer should be shoved up thier arse’s,why not spit on the former workers instead?.Look,there are bigger villains than P4,they kept the place going for 4 or 5 years longer than the company had any right to,never mind thier pension pots thats life,BMW sifted through the good bits like a bombay shitehawk and the asset stripping prostitutes at PWC had a good feed too. A rant?too bloody right.

  5. @2- Dennis. What the directors were paid is entirely relevant. Whilst it can be charitably assumed that they didn’t wilfully cock up the company’s chances of survival when they got the asset-grabbing Chinese involved, £42,000000 does appear to be a huge reward for failure.

    I don’t think the workers should be ‘counting their blessings’ because they may have earned an estimated £100,000 after BMW’s shameful withdrawal- which was no fault of the workers, but down to poor management by BMW- who could have made a much better fist of running Rover had they properly understood what Rover needed and marketed the cars better. Those workers worked hard for that money- and the directors wasted a great deal of time and money on pointless side projects that added nothing of real value to the main brand, such as the poorly monikered MG X-Power SV, and the RWD V8 75 (and how many of those were they realistically expecting to shift?).

    Success should lead to rewards. Yet these directors who between them were paid a staggering £42 million will live very comfortably for the rest of their days despite not achieving long-term survival for the company, nor even a decent redundancy settlement for those who played no part in that failure. They should have taken a reasonable salary for their efforts and ensured that the workers were properly compensated.

  6. @Dennis:

    “While MGR was a fairly small car manufacturer, as ‘companies’ go it was a pretty big one and the sums paid to the directors as salary wasn’t really an unreasonable figure. Compared to many bankers who’ve arguably affected far more people by their mistakes the salary is tiny.”

    I agree, compared to the banking sector the financial remuneration paid by the directors of Phoenix Venture Holdings was small. But then MG Rover Group was a much smaller concern that was constantly making a loss (albeit reducing in size each year). Bonuses and generous salaries should ideally only be offered once the company is making profit once again, not when it was making a loss.

    When my father’s small engineering company made a loss ten years ago, both directors immediately took a pay cut to help reduce costs. After eighteen months trading recovered and they were able to resume their original salary. This showed they would make a sacrifice to try and help the company through troubled waters.

    Unless there are other reasons why the directors of Phoenix Venture Holdings cannot release funds, it would be a worthy gesture if they did make a private contribution to the MG Rover Employees Fund.

  7. How much did the enquiry cost to find this out? I’ll bet more than a derisory £19,500! Next blow will be when long serving ex-Longbridge workers try to claim their pensions. A shameful disregard for ordinary working family’s well being. Typical of today’s business culture.

  8. As Directors’ pay goes £42m isn’t that excessive. However, their salaries should have more mirrored the financial state, situation of the company they were directing. In other words, been lower! How about half or two thirds of the actual amount?

    When collapse finally came, it would have been the honourable thing for some of the £42m to have gone into a redundancy fund for the workers. But, hey, when is business ever honourable, especially when comparing managers’ pay to that of the workers? And no, my middle name isn’t Scargill!

  9. Well, this does not look good at all.the big picture is that if we lose our job due to the same circamstances we wont get bugger all as well. This judge has set the president for future cases, this should never have happened at mgr. When the employees hailed john towers they really thought their jobs were going to last for many many years. As for the other four, well their motive was to asset strip the company of cash. If i get my facts right, didnt john towers with phoenix get turned down to take over another company, as they were labeled the ”ASSET STRIPPERS”.The judge didnt do justice, in this case he didnt use his morels, but a case of, toe the line and say what he was told. If you get my drift. In delicate cases he is told what to say….

  10. @5 If a company doesnt have the funds to pay the statutory redundancy, employees claim the money from the goverment instead, I know I went though this 5 years back with a local company.

  11. £3 is an insult… even less than I got when made redundant in 2001! When a company goes bankrupt, redundancy is normally paid at mininum levels from The National Insurance Fund (Government). You can also claim unused holiday pay too but that is minimal aswell.

    For some workers, getting made redundant can be a blessing but certainly not for former MGRover employees

  12. “When the employees hailed john towers they really thought their jobs were going to last for many many years.”

    Well they did last for many many years, 5 to be exact. In 2000 few people thought they would get more than a few months.

    The details of Statutory redundancy pay is here;
    http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Employment/RedundancyAndLeavingYourJob/Redundancy/DG_10029836

    They could have claimed no more than about 20 weeks pay. Which is paid by the government, i seem to remember a figure of a few thousand pounds each at the time. Employees are normally at the bottom of the list when it comes to creditors. The Inland Revenue is always at the top of the list.

  13. @10 Good job your name isn’t Scargill, he also feathered his nest while the workers he represented suffered

    @14 Revenue & Customs usually are top of the list of creditors, unless its a football club involved; they somehow pulled a stunt so “football debts” are paid first (before HMRC). Never understood why they are treated differently.

  14. “When the employees hailed john towers they really thought their jobs were going to last for many many years.”

    Well they did last for many many years, 5 to be exact. In 2000 few people thought they would get more than a few months.

    You appear to have little sympathy with the former Rover workforce, whilst feeling that the director’s salary was reasonable.

  15. I don’t agree with what the Directors did or were paid, but then we have to remember that workers did also maintain employment (and really quite well paid at that) for an extra 5 years. It did not end the way it could have but it is now 7 years ago and frankly I am sick of hearing about it. Are we to believe that those workers have literally sat on the edge of the couch weeping for the last 2,580 days waiting for a wad of cash to fall through the letterbox to solve all their ills? No, probably not. Anyone would think that poor old ex-MGR workers were the only ones ever to have met such a fate – not true! people suffer and struggle on, I know first hand how this feels, but I do not expect the whole nation to continually weep for me from here until the end of time. It happened, it’s done, anyone with half a brain could see there wasn’t a £million bucket of money about to land out of fairytale land – it really is time to move on from this dark but brief piece of MGR/BL history

  16. The P4 merely behaved in the same way 99% of British company directors do day in and day out ie. put their own personal interests ahead of their company and it’s staff.

    I believe they really did want MG Rover to be successful but they wanted to be personally rich even more.

    This is how UK PLC runs. It also explains a lot of our economic difficulties.

  17. These people gave their lives to ‘the austin’ and for 7 years of campaigning and legal process they get £3 each? To add insult to injury the pheonix four get a further £11million between them for sitting on their arses and and bleeding a massive company dry. The workers have no pensions now, no well paid manufacturing jobs, homes lost, relationships frayed and a sense of worth that has to be scraped from the floor. The inquiry into Longbridge needs to be reopend and the upper management charged on financial fraud and false accounting, which is what it amounts to instead of the namby pamby slapped wrist that they got. They should be in prison and their assets stripped to be distributed to those who did not get a redundancy payout.

  18. Why should the former MGR workers be any different to any other company that goes bust.

    You get statutory redundancy (from the government if there is not enough money recovered from the co to pay it) and a pittance from what ever the administrators/liquidators can get.

    I’ve been at a company that went belly up and the amount I was owed in expenses exceeded the redundancy payment I got from the government. Eventually, got 1p in the pound on the expenses.

    Fact of life. It is hard. It is unfair. But it happens – to lots of people all the time.

    MGR workers got 5 years of well paid work that BMW would not have given them had the “P4” not taken it on.

  19. I still think there is a lot unsaid on this project.

    The P4 definitely did want to make money but they would have undoubtedly made more if they had sold out a solvent company.

    The last Labour government seem to be getting away with the fate of MGR way too lightly. They could have given BMW the relatively small grant they were looking for and we would probably still have Rover.

  20. @21 I completely agree the blame must lay at the door of the last labour government who should have ‘assisted’ with the deal with SAIC before 6500 jobs were lost. It is a disgrace that the last government bailed out the banks to a tune of Billions but would not provide a few million to secure some of the 6500 UK jobs and kept a British Manufacturing facility open. How they got away with this is beyong belief.

  21. The furore around this demonstrates the ridiculous culture of blame, finger pointing and compensation that we have inherited. Losing your job is awful but, i’m sorry, it happens.

    Surely after all these years most financial distress caused by these redundancies will have passed so is it not time to move on?

    Terrible as the situation was, why continue to waste your life away trying to flog a dead horse?

  22. While I agree that £3 is less than the price of a pint, I do get tired of the whining about how disgraceful business is today. The way MGR imploded I am surprised anything came out of it for employees. More to the point, it didnt take a multi-Ph.D to realise that MGR was circling the drain – so maybe a transferral of marketable skills to someone like Nissan might have been advantageous?

    The MGR situation and the Banking Crisis and the worldwide disaster *that* caused are both a result of poor business control by politicians (for arguably the last 60 years in BL/MGRs case, and you can blame Alastair Darling & the FSA for the recent bankgasm). So if you voted within the last 20 years, be it in the UK or US or anywhere else, YOU voted them in. So lets have a little less of the righteous indignation thanks, since the ability to make those decisions/gold-plated cock-ups was given to them by the voter.

    I believe that would be you?

    There are alot of business laws in the UK that are wilfully ignored when people feel like it. Then they all come out and whinge like professional mourners when a company they like goes under as a result of foreign competition flat out ignoring them in precisely the same way.

    A transgendered friend of mine was recently sacked for being ‘too keen’. She has no recompense because the company got round the relevant discrimination law – so she gets nada. Even the solicitor acting for the company admitted off the record that everyone knew what had happened and why, up to and including the MD who made the decision over ‘keen-ness with intent’.

    I was made redundant once on the basis that ‘I wasnt qualified on the ‘new systems” they were bringing in – notwithstanding my contract said I was to get training as and when required. Simple to bypass that little problem, just say training isnt required – and then sack the person when it was. Job done. I could have gotten them for constructive dismissal but thats by the by.

    There are a couple of people on here who say they took pay cuts to help their business. Good for you. Glad the company pulled through…

    But I will bet money, that the self same people complained about ‘restrictive business practice regulations’ at least once – while bemoaning the fact that foreign companies are setting up in the UK and driving domestic companies out of business.

    I agree its unpleasant that the MGR employees have been treated this way – but the blame lies with more than just the politician. It sits on the doorstep of every person who voted that government in.

    More to the point, will people please also remember, that MGR as was, at the point it was taken over, little more than a cancer-riddled corpse waiting to die. Its a miracle, so far as I have read (on here), that The Four managed to keep it going for as long as they did.

    Add to all of that the Great and Mighty Clarkson putting the boot in at every opportunity and a Labour government that made Thatcher look like Marx’s greatest fan and the rest is history.

  23. AndrewP – comment 21

    ” The last Labour government seem to be getting away with the fate of MGR way too lightly. They could have given BMW the relatively small grant they were looking for and we would probably still have Rover ”

    Yes, I also think this was a key moment. Had the government given BMW the aid requested we would likely today have a Rover as it was trying to be in the early nineties – a succesful, self sufficient, quality, niche brand.

  24. A lot of criticism of BMW here, but lets not forget that virtually all the cash that Rover burned through between 2000 and 2005 came from BMW. Rover where left with a dowry of over £1bn in the form of cash and unsold stock. A significant chunk of this found its way into Directors pension funds, the rest was squandered on vanity projects like the V8 75 and inefficient working practices. BMWs only sin was to trust British management to run the Rover subsidiary with minimal supervision from Munich. By the time they fully understood what a hash they where making of things it was too late. Things where in such a total mess that Rover threatened the future of the whole BMW group.

  25. “Rover where left with a dowry of over £1bn in the form of cash and unsold stock.”

    It’s often painted as being a dowry, gift, non-repayable loan. However in reality it was just the amount BMW would have had to pay to close the place down and meet all their liabilities. Warranty claims for example from cars built before they sold up and indemnity from any liability that might arise from any car built before 2000.

    Effectively BMW gave the company away for a Token £10, they even kept the engine and gearbox plant and made MGR buy that back from them a couple of years later.

  26. IMO, BAe were to blame for the MG-Rover mess. If they’d’ve had the best interests of MG-Rover at heart, they would have sold to Honda but no, they, perhaps for a few extra quid, sold it to BMW.

    With respect to the MG Rover workers though, I hope that the increasing success of Jaguar Landrover is allowing those previous MG-Rover employees with suitable skills to ply them there.

  27. Its very unfair to the workers what been given, and my coments have already been mentioned, at the time I could not understand why Labour goverment did not help MGR, as MGR were producing a quailtiy products, yes needed a partner for new investment for new Rover-Mg car already RDX 60. MGR workers should have been better treated, and goverment should has helped as they helped other car manufactures, we still had MGR going today, interesting that MGR had to buy back its gearbox/engine facilities. Regards Mark

  28. Paul – comment 26

    ” BMWs only sin was to trust British management to run the Rover subsidiary with minimal supervision from Munich. By the time they fully understood what a hash they where making of things it was too late. Things where in such a total mess that Rover threatened the future of the whole BMW group. ”

    Oh, come on! I know BMW were giving Rover a relatively free hand but they would have been well aware of its basic financials, sales, profit, costs etc, throughout their period of ownership. Similarly, they would hardly have aquired Rover with just a quick glance at the accounts. I hardly think they would suddenly have become aware of a ‘hash’ late 2004.

    As I understand it BMW were hit hard by exchange rates and rapidly falling sales of 25 & 45. These were the key problems. I think the government should have assisted BMW to –
    (i) see it through short term difficulties
    (ii) recognise the investment BMW had already made

    Also, the government should have forseen that BMW were on the verge of turning the long troubled, state reliant company into a financilly independent, successful smaller volume producer.

  29. @ Gemma:

    I made the comment relating to ‘There are a couple of people on here who say they took pay cuts to help their business’. “Good for you. Glad the company pulled through…

    But I will bet money, that the self same people complained about ‘restrictive business practice regulations’ at least once – while bemoaning the fact that foreign companies are setting up in the UK and driving domestic companies out of business.”

    Yes, the company has always faced competition in what is (and still is) a niche market in the engineering sector, although this is as equally from UK-based competitors as it is foreign companies. To my knowledge no complaining has been made about “restrictive business regulations.”

  30. “I know BMW were giving Rover a relatively free hand but they would have been well aware of its basic financials, sales, profit, costs etc, throughout their period of ownership.”

    Well there are two sides to this, yes i’m sure they were aware of the basic balance sheet that Rover was submitting to them. However Rover had been cooking the books and massaging the figures they gave to BMW for example (much like Austin, Morris, Rover did back when they were giving accounts to BL). A good example of it was the field of full of used ex-lease Rover 600’s they’d hidden away from prying management eyes, it was one of many things that BMW eventually discovered and woke them up to what was happening.

    This is where the two sides comes in though, Rover should have cleaned up their act and not simply buried things until they were too late. On the other hand BMW should have been aware of it much sooner and kept a closer eye on what the Rover management was up to.

  31. Don’t see the point. A field full of used 600’s hidden away is a hidden asset. Why is this ‘Cooking the books’? Had they over valued them as new cars?

  32. They’d leased them out on very cheap terms with a guaranteed minimum value at the end of the lease, far above what they were actually worth. Rather than just declare the loss, they hid them away to make it look like they were making a profit, when BMW discovered this and put the 600’s back into the equation it put the balance sheet in the red.

    It seems BMW were just writing cheques to Rover Group without actually checking where it was going, then someone wised up and decided they better go and have a look at which point the mess became clear. So Rover’s management should have admitted they were struggling earlier on, but BMW should have been keeping more of an eye on what they were doing with their money. Think of it a bit like the banking crisis, banks were left to their own devices with softly softly regulation, then suddenly one day it all blew up!

  33. Re DeLorean’s Accountant – BAe offered Rover Grp to Honda but they did not want to take over – they took a 20% stake, as Rover took a 20% stake in Honda UK. Japanese car makers at that time did not take over foreign car makers.

    The sale to BMW suited BAe but with hindsight was not in RoverGrp’s best interests.

    The Phonenix Four are villified but as stated above, at least they had a go. Manufacturing is more fashionable these days, but that wasn’t the case in 2000. There wasn’t a queue of British businessmen to buy it, as there would have been up until the 1960s.

    If they were asset strippers they would have sold everything off in the first two years.

    If China Brilliance deal had come off, things may have been very different.

    They kept people in work for another five years, and the impact in 2005, although massive, was much reduced from what it would have been in 2000, as Advantage West Midlands and Birmingham City Council had done much to help restructure and diversify the economy.

    Fortunately, JLR and suppliers have been able to replace some of the manufacturing jobs, and MG Motors have re-employed some of the workers.

    There are much more valid targets of greed and self-interest than Mr John Towers. How about the boss of Cadbury’s who sold on a profitable well-run firm, together with its local history, to Kraft? It was said at the time he would have made 20 million from his share options. Thats’s worse surely?

  34. @ Ian:

    I could not agree more with what you have said, particularly in relation to the sell-off of the Rover Group to BMW, the unsuccessful outcome with China Brilliance (not down to MG Rover Group’s doing, I hasten to add) and also what the owners of MG Rover Group actually did achieve – providing ongoing employment with the company and its component suppliers for a further five years.

    I would also add that the dowry of £427m that has been mentioned elsewhere was actually quite a small figure for what was ultimately a medium-sized company that was making losses and not having any collaborative links with another manufacturer to aid them in developing new models or sharing technology with.

    Moreover, with the more important volume selling brand (Rover) taking the brunt of the bad publicity when BMW decided to sell off the Rover Cars division in 2000, because the company was always informally referred to as “Rover”, this made selling the unsold stock of 40,000 predominantly Rover cars very difficult at near full retail price. Hence the reason why large discounting had to be done.

    A further point to make is the £42m that the directors ‘had’. If every penny of this figure had been injected back into MG Rover Group it would have given them a maximum of two more months of trading at best. Ultimately, it would not have saved the company – that required the commitment and resources of a much wealthier partner, such as another manufacturer or a committed government who could envisage returns on any investment made.

    The so-called motor industry analysts gave MG Rover Group just 36 months of trading survival, although the reality is that the company survived just one month short of five years. That is an achievement when there was so many factors against the company.

  35. £3 is an absolute insult… How much has been spent/wasted on the enquiry along the way? The enquiry has cost millions, who are the only people to have benefited there? Quite frankly the people who have worked on it via the fees they have charged!

    The money taken by the directors was absolutely obscene considering the overall failure in their ability to run the company successfully! Where they not left £500 million from BWM when they took control? If I have this right, they could have afforded to pay each of the 3500 employees over £28k for five years without even making or selling a car! So all this ‘they kept MG Rover alive for an extra five years’ is potential nonsense, as it takes zero business acumen to spend money from a bank account until it has gone. And the level of their remuneration package certain isn’t inline with the skills they displayed in running the company sureley?

    People lose their investment value if they invest in what turns into a failed venture. How have they walked away ‘quids in’ to such an enormous scale? Why? Because they appear to have cleverly ring fenced funds long before issues became public.

    However quite frankly, full openness is never likely to happen regarding MG Rover, after all, at the time this was a government endorsed venture and while we may have a different government in power many influential people involved initially will still be too close to the enquiry to enable absolute honesty to prevail.

  36. Dennis – comment 34

    Now I see. However, were the 600 lease deal and similar examples of bad management so severe? Was it not just a case of tightenting the ‘BMW management strings” ?
    Would BMW likely have stayed at the helm with the requested state aid and more favourable exchange rates? Would they have tolerated falling sales of 25, 45 if these other issues had gone in their favour?

  37. “Where they not left £500 million from BWM when they took control? If I have this right, they could have afforded to pay each of the 3500 employees over £28k for five years without even making or selling a car! So all this ‘they kept MG Rover alive for an extra five years’ is potential nonsense, ”

    I take it you didn’t read any of the other comments above yours then?

  38. @39 Dennis,

    I think you may have completely missed the context of the post… We all know there was a huge sum of cash left…

  39. There was, however this couldn’t have simply been paid to the staff. It was what would have been required to simply close down the company. liability would have had to have been covered, so any outstanding warranties, paying off break clauses in various contracts and of course some redundancy payments. Oddly it costs money to wind up a company the size of MGR.

    The staff were given an option of taking redundancy (many did). Many staff were also earning a lot more than the £28k that you mention.

    There was also an “anti embarrassment” clause in the “loan”, which limited what MGR could do with it. ie. BMW didn’t want to give MGR £500m then just have them sell the company or its assets and pocket the cash. So if the P4 had sold/closed the firm a month later then the £500m would have to be paid back to BMW.

    Thing is by keeping it running for another 5 years, it was still contributing to the local economy. Not just automotive suppliers (who get nothing from the trust btw), but even local shops and businesses. Even the UK economy benefited from their exports (although not by the ship load as portrayed in the advert).

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