By CLIFFORD WEBB,
Midlands Industrial Correspondent
The first major casualty in the merging of BMH and Leyland was announced last night. Joe Edwards. 60-year-old managing director of BMC and Sir George Harriman’s top executive for over a year, is resigning all his appointments with the new group.
This is the first concrete evidence that the chief executive of British Leyland, Sir Donald Stokes, is not going to water down his hopes of a thorough-going rationalization of the combined group because of the fear of personality conflicts. Joe Edwards was widely regarded as the heir-apparent at BMC to Sir George Harriman, the chairman of the new merged,group.
The Stokes concept of the new corporation, modelled on American lines, is much at variance with previous BMH practice. To effect it, it was clearly necessary for Edwards to take one of the lesser posts-such as managing director of the mass production car plants, or withdraw. A statement from the Berkeley Square headquarters of British Leyland said: ‘By mutual agreement Mr. J. R. Edwards, managing director of BMC, will relinquish his present directorships of British Leyland Motor Corporation, British Motor Holdings, BMC Ltd., and Pressed Steel Fisher Ltd., with effect from April 30. Mr. Edwards has agreed to act as a consultant to the British Leyland Board and will give special attention to advising Sir Donald Stokes on various aspects of the new organization at home and abroad.’
Sir Donald, managing director designate of British Leyland, told me last night: ‘There has been no ill feeling between us. The whole business has been negotiated on a very friendly basis. I am very glad that someone with Joe’s tremendous knowledge of BMC and Pressed Steel-the biggest units in the new group is going to give us the benefit of his vast experience as a consultant.’