Former Lotus chief claims he was axed to make way for firm's sale

New CEO of Lotus Group PLC Dany Bahar.
Photo: Angela Sharpe
Copy: Matthew Sparkes
Archant pics © 2009
(01603) 772434

New CEO of Lotus Group PLC Dany Bahar. Photo: Angela Sharpe Copy: Matthew Sparkes For: EDP/EN Archant pics © 2009 (01603) 772434

Archant © 2009

Former Lotus chief Dany Bahar has accused the carmaker's new Malaysian owners of axing him in favour of their own officials as a prelude to selling off the business.

Group Lotus last night again insisted that the firm was not for sale following the allegations, which were made by Mr Bahar in a 16-page high court writ.

The former Lotus chief is suing DRB-Hicom and Group Lotus for £6.7m claiming unfair dismissal following his sacking for gross misconduct in June.

The writ also underscores the political sensitivities surrounding the deal in Malaysia after revealing that under the terms of the sale of the government’s majority stake in Proton, no employees of the car maker and its subsidiary could be dismissed until January 2013, - except in cases of misconduct, or mutual agreement.

The legal papers allege that Mr Bahar was removed as a “prelude to an impending sale or transfer” of Lotus, claiming also that three other senior executives in the legal, human resources and finance departments were also wrongly sacked for gross misconduct.

But last night DRB-HICOM and the management of Lotus refused to be drawn on Mr Bahar’s claims and said they were committed to Lotus and to a successful turnaround plan.

A spokesman said: “Lotus is not for sale.”

He added: “We will not be drawn into details on Mr Bahar’s claim save to note, Lotus was fully entitled to summarily dismiss him and his claim will be vigorously defended.

“With regards to any unfair dismissal claims, it is not our position to comment on such matters.”

Speculation about the future of Group Lotus has been mounting since Proton was sold to DRB-Hicom in January.

Mr Bahar, who was headhunted by Group Lotus in 2009 embarked on an ambitious plan to create five new models in a bid to turnaround the loss-making business, which would create 1000 new jobs in Norfolk and had received provisional £10m funding from the government’s regional growth fund.

But he was suspended following a formal complaint against him to the board of DRB-Hicom in Malaysia on May 25.

He claims he found out about his dismissal two weeks later from a press release on June 7.

But the spokesman said the firm was committed to its own turnaround plan.

“Our plans include the strengthening of our dealer network, increasing product visibility and brand awareness and ensuring that we position the cars and the brand correctly,” he added. “We will only announce new products when they are ready, [and] that there is a robust business case matched to a solid future plan, and that we will not expose our plans as we wish to maintain our competitive edge. We are concentrating on further improving quality, efficiency, ensuring timely delivery as well as delivering excellent customer service.”

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