I use the word suspended, even though that’s not a term one would normally use when a CEO is removed from his post, however during the past few hours that’s the phrase which has been used when I spoke to those people close to the matter.
During the past few weeks I’ve helped Lotus explore several opportunities to address their longer-term commercial challenges and facilitated a meeting which Dany was due to attend next week.
Dany was summoned to a Proton board meeting on Thursday/Friday this week, and was then due in Monaco this afternoon, before being back at his desk at Hethel next Monday.
But from what I understand, at the board meeting in Kuala Lumpur yesterday it was agreed that current Proton CEO, Datuk Syed Zainal Abidin Tahir, would leave the company at the end of this month. Dany has worked closely with Dato’ Syed since he joined Lotus in 2009, and it’s Proton’s CEO that provided the backing for Dany’s New Era transformation plan, launched at the 2010 Paris motor show.
An hour or so later I heard that Dany Bahar was being ‘suspended’ as Lotus CEO. After making a few calls, I discovered that a PR agency appointed by DRB-Hicom would be handling the issue – cutting Lotus’ PR team out of the loop to avoid further undermining Dany’s relationship with his team. ( just in case the suspension ends up being temporary)
So after a few more phone calls and talks with both parties, we were able to confirm the rumour and discover what went down at Proton’s board meeting yesterday.
A spokesperson for DRB-Hicom gave the following statement on behalf of Lotus this evening:
Statement from DRB-Hicom
As a result of a number of media inquiries, Group Lotus plc (“Lotus”) can today confirm that, following an operational review, Chief Executive Dany Bahar has been temporarily suspended from his role to facilitate an investigation into a complaint about his conduct made by Lotus’ penultimate parent company, DRB-HICOM Berhad.
In Mr Bahar’s absence, Dato’ Lukman Ibrahim, Mr Mohd Khalid Yusof and Mr Aslam Farikullah (representatives of Lotus’ parent companies ) have been authorised by Group Lotus plc’s board to handle and conduct the day to day management and affairs of the Lotus Group. They will be assisted by Mr Rusman Zaihan. They have been authorised to take up these duties during the suspension period.
A spokesman for DRB-HICOM Berhad said: “The penultimate holding company would like to stress it is business as usual at Lotus. We fully support the company and will continue to support Lotus in its business endeavours and development.”
Lotus union reps and staff representatives at Hethel were told the news this morning, and thereafter an email was sent out to all staff informing them of Dany’s suspension.
The spokesperson would not say any more about the reason for Dany’s suspension, other than the decision was taken this morning – but there were several moments during the past few weeks when Dany’s relationship with Lotus’ new owners, DRB-Hicom, showed that a fracture was forming.
DRB-Hicom are at pains to point out that their commitment to supporting Lotus as a business remains undiminished, although it is undeniable that today’s decision further undermines that cause and the confidence suppliers, customers and key staff have in the current business.
To those within Lotus, this is yet another disappointing move by their new owners, and the feelings I picked up were ones of frustration as well as emasculation. Since December 2011 (when DRB-Hicom announced their acquisition of Proton) Lotus has been hit by a series of issues, most of which were outside their control.
When I contacted Lotus’ Communications Director, Thomas Hoffman, this afternoon (who is presently away on a family holiday) he spoke about his frustration in re-building confidence in the company he and his colleagues have worked so hard to grow, only to have yet another rug pulled from under his feet – bear that in mind if you feel inclined to indulge in a bit of Schadenfreude..
We’ll publish further thoughts on the situation later in the weekend, in the meantime spare a thought for Lotus’ beleaguered employees as they continue to fight for the survival of their jobs.