Lotus boss: I was sacked to pave way for sell-off

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The Independent Online

The sacked boss of Lotus has argued that he lost his job as the car maker's new Malaysian owners sought to sell the business.

Istanbul-born Dany Bahar, who was axed for alleged gross misconduct while holidaying with his family in June, has claimed in High Court documents that DRB-Hicom fired several senior executives, including the head of human resources and the finance boss, to make way for its own people.

DRB-Hicom bought majority control of Lotus owner Proton in January. Once that purchase went through, there was speculation that the Malaysians would sell Norfolk-based Lotus, which Mr Bahar had led for three years, and the possibility was even debated in the House of Commons. Under the terms of his contract, Mr Bahar was entitled to 5 per cent of the money or shares from any future sale or stock exchange listing of the business.

Suing for wrongful dismissal, Mr Bahar alleges: "DRB-Hicom wished to replace Lotus's senior management including the claimant with its own officials as a prelude to an impending sale or transfer of Lotus."

Lotus has argued this week that the manufacturer is not for sale. However, the Malaysian Aslam Farikullah, who has worked at other DRB car divisions, has been drafted in to replace Mr Bahar.

The High Court submission shows that Mr Bahar is claiming more than £6.7m to 21 June, and wants interest on that amount of nearly £1,500 a day "until judgment or sooner payout".

Lotus has suspended work on five car models as it tries to turn around the business. In addition, it has been reported that the company, the name of which is licensed to a Malaysian Formula 1 team, has also halted research and development work. In particular, the Esprit model, once thought to be green lit has been put on hold.

Lotus headquarters is based at the former site of the RAF Hethel airfield in Norfolk. It was acquired by Proton following bankruptcy in 1994.