Cowie's founder attacks board

The war of words at Cowie intensified yesterday when Sir Tom Cowie, the transport group's founder, life president and 2.8 per cent shareholder, accused the board of "completely lacking any common sense".

Sir Tom was speaking ahead of next Wednesday's EGM, called to remove Neil Pykett, the former boss of its car-leasing offshoot, as a director.

Sir Tom also accused chief executive Gordon Hodgson of "wielding too much power". Mr Pykett's departure and the earlier exit of Iain Jane from the executive team means that Mr Hodgson is the only one left of the triumvirate who took charge after Sir Tom was forced out as chairman in 1993 at the age of 71.

"Hodgson has now surrounded himself with intimidated colleagues," Sir Tom claims. "Anyone who has the temerity to stand up to him gets the push." He describes Cowie's non-executive chairman, Sir James McKinnon, the former gas industry regulator as "Hodgson's choice".

The row involving 48-year-old Mr Pykett began in October when it became clear he was not the automatic choice to succeed Mr Hodgson, who is now 65.

Mr Pykett handed in his resignation, saying he wanted to work out his three-year contract. But he was forced out of his job in February after a row over his wish to sell his shares in the company. Other directors accused him of "gross misconduct."

"What agitates me," said Sir Tom, "is the long-term need to plan the management succession. There is also the effect on the share price of this row. The shares are down 13 per cent despite the record results announced in March."

Officials at Cowie claim Sir Tom is now "out of touch" with the business. Last month shareholders received letters from both Mr Pykett and Sir James McKinnon spelling out their versions of the row

"More dirty linen will be washed in public at the EGM," Sir Tom predicts. "But I don't think many institutional shareholders will bother to go up to Sunderland to hear the arguments. They will vote with the board. They always do."

Observers of the company think the entire imbroglio might have been avoided if Cowie had a normal head office. But the company, with a stock market value approaching pounds 1bn, is still run on the original site of Cowie's first motorcycle shop. Sir Tom started Cowie in Sunderland more than 40 years ago as a motorbike repair shop. It is now big in car leasing and an operator of privatised buses, running the biggest bus operation in London.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Digital Optimisation Executive - Marketing

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's fastest growing, multi...

Recruitment Genius: Financial Reporting Manager

£70000 - £90000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Financial Reporting Manager i...

Recruitment Genius: Payments Operations Assistant

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They win lots of awards for the...

Recruitment Genius: Telephone Debt Negotiator

£13500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This nationwide enforcement com...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific