Chairman of Serco quits without saying sorry


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The Independent Online

Serco’s chairman Alastair Lyons yesterday became the latest victim of the outsourcer’s turbulent year of multimillion-pound fines, a Government ban and profit warnings, as he announced his departure but did not apologise.

His decision comes after shares in the prisons-to-public transport operator plunged by 35 per cent, after it issued its fourth profit warning in 12 months, wrote off £1.5bn off the value of its business, and suspended its dividend, admitting it could breach banking covenants.

Serco is still paying for overcharging the taxpayer millions of pounds for tagging criminals who were dead or imprisoned; chief executive Chris Hyman resigned last year.

Mr Lyons yesterday referred to “operational mis-steps” for which he took “ultimate responsibility”, but said he had not been forced out.

He claimed “colleagues have asked me not to resign, [but] it has been my intention to step down once a new strategy and direction for the business were in place”. Mr Lyons, 61, has been Serco’s chairman for the past four years, also carrying out the same role at insurers Admiral and Towergate, and deputy chairman of housebuilder Bovis. He will depart once his replacement is announced. Rupert Soames, the current chief executive, said “nobody could have worked harder or done more” to help build “a solid future for Serco”.

A stock market analyst at SunGard said short-sellers – who bet on share prices falling – had piled into Serco since last week’s warning.