Stobart Group bosses sue former chief executive

PA

A High Court battle featuring bosses at a multimillion-pound infrastructure business which started up in an isolated Lake District village half a century ago has begun.

Bosses at the Stobart Group, which began life when founder Eddie Stobart went into business as an agricultural contractor in Hesket Newmarket, Cumbria, during the 1960s, have sued former chief executive Andrew Tinkler.

They say Mr Tinkler conspired with other businessmen to harm the company’s interests and had his “own interests” at heart.

Bosses have also have made claims about money spent on air travel, and want a judge to rule that he 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 Jonathan Russen began overseeing a trial, which is due to last more than two weeks, in London on Monday.

Andrew Tinkler
Andrew Tinkler

Barrister Richard Leiper QC, who leads the Stobart Group legal team, told the judge: “The company would say this is a man who truly has his own interests at heart.”

Mr Leiper said 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 chairman Iain Ferguson and said Mr Tinkler had used the words: “Either Mr Ferguson or me.”

Mr Tinkler disputes allegations against him.

The judge was told that Mr Tinkler did not like the “briefing against the board” characterisation.

Mr Leiper said Mr Tinkler had spoken of having concerns about Mr Ferguson’s chairmanship and being worried that Stobart was going “off-strategy”.

Lawyers representing Mr Tinkler say there is “no proper basis” for conspiracy allegations made by Stobart bosses.

They also say allegations that Mr Tinkler had taken £5 million of “so-called expenses” from the company in breach of fiduciary duties should “never have been brought”.