By Clifford Webb Midland Industrial Correspondent
British Leyland surprised the motor industry last night with the announcement that Mr Filmer M. Paradise, the 54-year old American who is director of sales at Austin Morris, is leaving the company.
Since he joined the former British Motor Holdings group six years ago, Mr Paradise has become one of the best known figures in European motor circles. He was formerly head of Ford, Italy. No official explanation was given for his departure, other than that his contract expires in October.
Last night a close colleague at the Longbridge headquarters of Austin Morris said: “Filmer has made no secret of his ambitions at British Leyland. A number of senior appointments have been made in recent months, particularly at international level, which did not go down well with him”.
Mr Paradise was not available for comment. He is understood to be in Italy on holiday. The British Leyland statement prompted by an inquiry from The Times, said: “In accordance with previously agreed arrangements, Mr F. M. Paradise, director of sales for the Austin Morris group, will be leaving the company on the expiration of his contract on October 31. The chairman and directors of British Leyland regret the departure of Filmer Paradise, and wish him well in the future he has chosen.”
Filmer Paradise joined BMH in 1967 as managing director of its European operations based in Lausanne, Switzerland. His successor will be Mr Bernard Bates, his, present deputy and operations director sales. Mr Bates has 24 years’ service with British Leyland and the former Austin and Morris car companies. He in turn is succeeded by Mr A. E. “Bert” Lawrence, a former Ford man who was recruited by Mr Paradise.