A master piece by: Mark Morahan
London, 26/05/16 –
David versus Goliath in a battle for the future of Addison Lee.
This is no Fairy Tale!
The ‘Goliath’ a $178 billion organisation called Carlyle Group versus ‘David’ a bunch of London minicab drivers from Addison Lee earning £6 per hour and now forced to work 60 to 80 hours per week to make ends meet. No contest you would think but read on and you may be surprised.
Our story starts back in 2013 when Goliath purchased Addison Lee from the wilily old founder John Griffin for £300 million. Goliath congratulated himself that he had taken Irishman Griffin ‘to the cleaners’ by getting the company for a knock down price. Goliath licked his lips as he thought of all that profit he would make by selling the company for $800 million. Griffin, to his credit, bore Goliath no ill will for being persuaded to sell his company so cheaply. He accepted he was only a simple cab driver and no match for expensively suited high finance Goliath executives.
What is now certain that Goliath, who was much too big to travel in normal cars and needed a chauffeured Mercedes, had never heard of ‘Uber’. The rest of the private equity community laughed with glee as Goliath discovered that this was not the best time to be selling a cab company. Goliath spat with fury as he was forced to cancel the sale.
The good people at Addison Lee kept on working hard, providing a great service and grew the business by 7%. That was not good enough for the very hungry Goliath who wanted money, big money, otherwise his investors would get annoyed. Goliath pushed open the doors of Addison Lee and announced that he would now be running things. We all know that Goliath did not become the biggest in the land by being stupid, he could smell where the money was but how could he get his hands on it? Thinking for a while he came up with a simple but brilliant plan ‘let’s increase the charges to the drivers’. Up went the weekly car rental and commission taken on every job. This stroke of genius was a fabulous success and £25 million that would have been paid to the 4,000 drivers, was to be put too much better use, shareholder dividends. Goliath sat back smugly, knowing that his investors would be yet again be kneeling in front of him paying homage to his brilliance.
Understandably the drivers were a little upset at having to work longer and longer hours to try to cover the bare essentials of living in one of the most expensive cities in the world. They pleaded ‘we have given loyal service, we love this company and now were earning less than the minimum wage, that is not right’. Goliath laughed and said ‘you’re all on self-employed contracts so you have no rights. If you don’t like it leave’.
Many drivers, with tears in their eyes, did leave the place they loved. Others scared by the size of Goliath hid away but one driver called David dared to challenge the Goliath by saying ‘this is our company, we helped build it and are proud to work here, you have no right to be destroying it.” Summoning all his courage, David then shouted ‘IT IS YOU WHO SHOULD LEAVE’ Now Goliath got very annoyed grabbed David, pulled his car keys away so he could not escape in his Galaxy and threw him violently into the dungeon called unemployment. ‘That what’s happens to anybody who challenges me’ roared Goliath with such ferocity that all the other drivers ran for cover in case they too were locked in the damp dark dungeon and would not be able to feed their families.
But then a strange thing happened, the little drivers looked at each other and knew they had to rescue David. They were very frightened but as they looked around their courage grew for they knew they had right on their side. More and more came out from hiding and were soon joined by staff from the offices who cheered the little drivers on. Soon Goliath was surrounded in the boardroom of Addison Lee. The drivers and staff said as one ‘We have come to take our company back’. Goliath roared with laughter and then thundered ‘Get back to work, it is I which owns this company’. He was so loud that he could be heard all the way to the garage in Stanhope Street where the unused Galaxies and Prius crashed into each as the roar of anger reverberated around its concrete walls.
But still the drivers did not move and as Goliath caught one to throw them into the dungeon the other drivers and staff wrestled him back. Soon Goliath started to tire and he knew that he could not win. The drivers and staff cheered as they threw Goliath out the front door banished to Berkley Square where his angry investors lay in wait for him.
The good people at Addison Lee were happy to go to work and cheered as they were once again voted the best minicab company in the country.
The drivers and staff of Addison Lee are shouting loud and clear, ‘Carlyle, we want our company back’. What’s not a fairy tale is that Carlyle cannot win this battle. Its management style is arrogant and straight from the 19th century. Sacking people for demonstrating because they have had their income forcibly reduced, is not acceptable in this country.
The assets of Addison Lee are not the cars, vans, offices or computers, it is the people. Without them the company is valueless. It is the professionalism of drivers and staff which keeps our accounts happy. Who owns the shares has no bearing when contracts are renewed.
The reality is that Carlyle wish to sell Addison Lee. That will only happen if the staff and drivers cooperate. No purchaser will ever buy Addison Lee in the condition it is now.
A formal notice will soon be served on Carlyle which will legally oblige them to inform any potential purchasers that the drivers and staff will not tolerate being owned by any organisation which does not put the interests of all stakeholders (staff, drivers and shareholders) at the forefront of its strategy.
Without co-operation Carlyle would have to give the company away for virtually nothing. For assisting the sale of Addison Lee the staff and drivers will be rewarded with 25% of the shareholding which will be is to be divided equally between all staff and drivers.
If Carlyle do not accept those conditions, the staff and drivers of Addison Lee will do everything in its power to confront Carlyle to counter its dictatorial attitude and total disregard for peoples basic human rights.
They will not win.