Scott Brown, the Australian financial whizz kid brought in to shake up the collapsing private fire company, quit AssetCo yesterday, it has just been announced.
His departure is the latest blow to the firm which owns and services London and Lincolnshire’s fire engines and provided a strike breaking auxiliary workforce in the dispute with the London Fire Brigade over shift patterns last year.
It came as shares fell to just 3.93p – a new low – which must mean the company is not long for this world.
Appointed only last October the 43-year-old was meant to help turn the company round and plan an expansion of its activities.
The official statement from AssetCo described his departure as part of ” the orderly transition in its finance area ” claiming “Mr Brown’s immediate duties and the finance structure is being managed day-to-day by a senior interim manager, who is reporting directly to Interim Chairman, Tudor Davies. ”
Frankly this is balls. An orderly transition would mean that the company would already have someone appointed in his place – not some interim manager who probably has been appointed at the last moment.
I talked to him briefly on his mobile when the company was having to raise extra finance – and it was quite clear from the conversation that he saw the company having a big future – once it had got rid of hotchpotch of manufacturing firms it acquired in the 1980s and could expand by offering its services to other fire authorities and abroad.
More to the point he is shrewd enough to quit before it goes bust. A check on the land register shows he has a large house in Barnes, south London which he and his partner Elizabeth Hackett-Brown bought for £1.425m in 2009 with a mortgage from HSBC. He won’t want as a director to put that at risk if the company goes bust.
He also is the key man negotiating with the banks – so I just wonder how well the negotiations for extra cash are going.
I have a feeling that it won’t be long before London Fire Brigade’s shiny engines will be in the hands of the administrators.