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Former chief executive gave me tirade of abuse, Stobart chairman tells court

UK News | Published:

Stobart bosses say Andrew Tinkler conspired with other businessmen to harm the company’s interests and made claims about money spent on air travel.

Stobart Group High Court dispute

The chairman of a multi-million pound infrastructure business which started up in an isolated Lake District village half a century ago has told a High Court trial how he was on the receiving end of a “tirade of abuse” from a former chief executive.

Iain Ferguson, chairman of the Stobart Group, which began life when founder Eddie Stobart went into business as an agricultural contractor in Hesket Newmarket, Cumbria, during the 1960s, told a judge how former chief executive Andrew Tinkler shouted and swore during a meeting earlier this year.

Mr Ferguson said Mr Tinkler “directed his ire” at him and asked not to be treated like a “small boy”.

Stobart bosses have sued Mr Tinkler.

They say Mr Tinkler conspired with other businessmen to harm the company’s interests and made claims about money spent on air travel.

Bosses want Judge Jonathan Russen to rule that Mr Tinkler was lawfully dismissed.

Mr Tinkler, who was chief executive of the business between 2007 and 2017, denies wrongdoing, saying he was removed for no good reason, and has counter-claimed.

Judge Russen began overseeing a trial, which is due to last more than two weeks, in London on Monday.

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Barrister Richard Leiper QC, who leads the Stobart Group legal team, told the judge how board members had earlier this year learned that Mr Tinkler had been talking to shareholders and “briefing against the board”.

He said there had been a “significant campaign” to oust Mr Ferguson.

Mr Tinkler disputes allegations against him.

The judge was told that Mr Tinkler did not like the “briefing against the board” characterisation and had spoken of having concerns about Mr Ferguson’s chairmanship and being worried that Stobart was going “off strategy”.

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Mr Ferguson described events at a meeting earlier this year in a written witness statement given to the judge.

“Mr Tinkler stood up and directed his ire at me and told me not to treat him like a small boy,” said Mr Ferguson.

“He said that either he or I had to resign.

“I was somewhat taken aback by this but responded by saying I would not resign and that was a matter for shareholders to decide.

“That precipitated a further tirade of abuse from Mr Tinkler.”

Mr Ferguson also told the judge about a telephone call in May and said Mr Tinkler had become “very shouty”.

“He again told me that he wanted me to resign as chairman, and again I refused,” said Mr Ferguson in his witness statement

“Mr Tinkler became very shouty during this telephone call.”

Mr Ferguson said Mr Tinkler accused him of trying to “cling to power” for “my own benefit”.

He added: “I said that was not the case.”

Mr Leiper had told the judge how Mr Tinkler had agreed to step down as chief executive in 2017.

He added: “Mr Tinkler appears to have found it difficult to let go of the reins.”

–  A timeline on the Stobart Group website outlines the development of the business over the past half century.

It says Eddie Stobart Ltd was created in 1970, moved into road transport and became one of Britain’s best-known brands.

Stobart had sold its transport and distribution division as part of a “strategic partial realisation” in 2014.

The timeline said the Stobart Group retained a share of the Eddie Stobart business, which operated privately.

The website says the Stobart Group is now “an infrastructure and support services business” which owned and managed a “range of key infrastructure sites”.

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