Mark Leftly: The Olympic fiasco was just the final straw

Given that G4S's failure to provide adequate security at the Games was the latest in a long line of deficiencies, it's the man at the top who must go
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The Independent Online

GG4S boss Nick Buckles once said that he "never had any ambition of working for anyone else". Early retirement it is, then, for the 51-year-old with the odd mullet haircut, because there is no way he should be allowed to continue at the world's second biggest private-sector employer.

This is not because of the security fiasco at the Olympics, when G4S failed to stump up enough security guards so that the army had to step in to protect the event.

Don't get me wrong, the epic failure at a global event that means the company has ruled itself out of bidding for contracts at the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics in Brazil was certainly deserving of his head.

Nor is this about the disastrous failure to buy ISS for £5.2bn last year, when shareholders effectively vetoed his plans and were proven right last week when the Danish cleaner was valued some 20 per cent below that level in a stake sale.

And, obviously it's a bit odd how corporate advisers, brokers and a chairman lost their jobs with G4S when Buckles goes around boasting that his role nowadays is "reputation and pricing bids".

Of course he should have gone over the Olympics. Of course he should have gone over the ISS fiasco. But, to go for those reasons alone means that all the other shambles and controversies during his eight-year leadership then would be forgotten.

Buckles should go for the many, many awful mistakes the company has made during his reign.

It's difficult to know where to start, so I'll trot out the rebuttal that many shareholders will make against my argument: G4S has gown hugely under Buckles, the share price hovered below 120p in mid-2004 and since 2009 has traded at well over double that.

Yes, the financial performance is impressive, with consistently strong turnover, profit and dividend pay-out figures. But, the operational performance has been shameful and when the industry is something as crucial as security, it is not enough to use accounts as a defence.

Buckles is not personally responsible for any of the following, but the list is long enough to suggest that he has failed to impose the right culture on G4S's employees:

In 2007, staff at US subsidiary Wackenhut were found asleep while "securing" a nuclear power plant, resulting in the loss of its contract with the US's biggest energy provider;

In 2008, Aboriginal elder "Mr Ward" died of severe heat stroke in the back of a G4S prison van in Australia. G4S was fined after pleading guilty to charges of failing to protect the 46-year-old's health and safety;

In 2010, father-of-five Jimmy Mubenga, who was being deported from the UK to Angola, was restrained by three G4S security guards and died of cardiac arrest. Last month, the Crown Prosecution Service did not bring charges to the guards over insufficient evidence, a decision that a former chief inspector of prisons branded "perverse";

In 2011, G4S lost a major government contract after a record 773 complaints by immigration centre detainees, including nearly 50 of assault. Current chief inspector of prisons Nick Hardwick found that G4S guards used "highly offensive and sometime racist language".

Individually, these are hardly the fault of the boss of one of the world's most sprawling empires. It is also hard to say when enough emerged that Buckles should have taken a hard look at himself and admit that he hadn't corrected what appears to be cultural deficiencies.

But the list has gone well beyond whatever that point is and he should go.

How far off can the final whistle be for JJB Sports?

The board of JJB Sports held a lengthy meeting on Friday and the agenda would surely make interesting reading because I'm not sure what the directors have left to say to each other.

Can we survive the next quarterly rent payment day in September? If so, what's the point? There will still be another to get through before the end of the year.

Shall we just go down the pub? Only if there's a few quid left in the kitty. Which there probably isn't.

The long-suffering sports goods retailer – which, lest we forget, was worth more than £1bn in its heyday but found itself outmuscled and out-thought by the likes of JD Sports and Sports Direct – suffered yet another body blow last Thursday.

The group's latest supposed saviour, Dick's Sporting Goods, wrote off its £20m investment in the company leading to founder David Whelan, who sold his last shares five years ago, to question JJB's future. Analysts are openly talking of the likelihood of administration.

US group Dick's was due to plough another £20m into the concern next year, but JJB's future seems so bleak that it's not going to bother. It wouldn't have been enough, as it seems that JJB needs the dough far sooner than 2013 anyway.

Dick's will retain its 3 per cent stake, which it took five months ago, but having, in effect, publicly condemned JJB's prospects, that now looks more like hope than expectation of any recovery.

Where all this leaves Bob Corliss, a US turnaround specialist who used to run the unappealing sounding Athlete's Foot chain, is confusing. He is due to become chairman of JJB next month, but that was an appointment almost certainly recommended by Dick's itself. While in far from an untenable position, Corliss could well feel that with his biggest supporter distancing itself from JJB he will have less support in making the changes he feels the chain needs.

JJB failed to sell much football gear during Euro 2012, a plight for which there is a proverbial response. Maybe it's time to blow the final whistle on the company.

Margareta Pagano is away