Buckles fights to keep his job at G4S
Nick Buckles, the chief executive of G4S, appeared to be fighting for his job after it emerged that a surprise shortage of security guards was only exposed during a dress rehearsal nine days ago that was part of the Olympics contract.
Speaking before a series of meetings with leading shareholders on Monday, John Connolly, the newly appointed chairman of G4S, declined to express outright support for the chief executive. He had already angered investors eight months ago with a failed bid to buy the Danish security giant ISS at a cost of £50m.
“Let’s see what happens in the morning,” Mr Connolly told the Financial Times, referring to a suggestion by Mr Buckles in weekend papers that the share price on Monday could decide his fate.
Mr Connolly also admitted that the total cost to the company of the debacle, estimated at about £50m last week, would not emerge for some weeks.
“In this case we’re not close to being able to come up with the right answer,” he said.
He acknowledged that the failure to provide 10,500 security guards in time for the Olympics, with the army called in to fill the gap, represented a much more serious failure than the collapse of the ISS bid. “This is different,” he said. “This is the business of the company rather than any development outside it.”
The fiasco is especially damaging for G4S because, with more than £1bn of annual revenues from contracts in the UK public sector, the British government is one of the group’s biggest outsourcing customers. Mr Buckles is facing a grilling with MPs on Tuesday, while Labour has accused ministers managing the contract of being “dangerously incompetent”.
Mr Connolly, who joined G4S in May this year, expressed his whole-hearted apologies and said the immediate priority was to “do the proper thing and take responsibility”.
“We don’t want to do anything that smacks of short-term expediency but it would be right to consider whether any members of the senior team are best placed to take the company forward,” he said. “Any decision we make as a board will be in the clear interests of the entire company.”
More than 1,000 G4S managers are now engaged in managing the Olympics security contract, up from 600 a week ago, with staff working around the clock to get as many guards trained as possible.