It's the end of the road for dashing chief executive who lived the Lotus life

Company sacks boss over claims he gave away sports cars, reports Margareta Pagano

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The Independent Online

As the handsome chief executive of a luxury sports car maker, Dany Bahar seemed to have it all. Renowned for his flamboyant lifestyle, the head of Lotus made generous use of helicopters, first-class flights and five-star hotels.

But the 41-year-old Turkish-born Swiss executive has just suffered a very public fall from grace. An investigation into allegations over his conduct led to his sacking this week, prompting fears for the future of Group Lotus.

Although nothing has been said publicly about the allegations, they are understood to centre on Mr Bahar's love of fast living, which allegedly included giving away Lotus cars as gifts – said by some to be common practice in the industry. He also rented a house in Norfolk and undertook substantial renovations, now the subject of legal claims over unpaid work.

Industry sources speculate that DRB-Hicom, the Malaysian owner of Lotus, is making Mr Bahar a scapegoat for the failings of its own subsidiary, Proton, which has controlled the Norfolk-based car-maker for more than a decade.

Although his dismissal followed an official investigation, sources inside the company claim that DRB-Hicom, which bought Proton this year, wants to get rid of all the executives involved with Lotus so it can rearrange the £270m syndicated loan put together to help finance the car-maker's ambitious five-year plan. More than 1,200 jobs at its Hethel factory are said to be at stake.

The Malaysian owner – which has already sacked the top two officials at Proton who backed Mr Bahar's plan to turn the company into a specialist sports car-maker – suspended the chief executive two weeks ago after alleged claims over his "conduct".

Mr Bahar, who was brought in from Ferrari three years ago, is thought to be considering suing DRB-Hicom. He was not available for comment yesterday. It is not known if he has received a pay-off, but he earned £1.2m a year and has several years left on his contract.

He also had an agreement for a multimillion-pound payment if Lotus is sold or floated. Sources close to Mr Bahar said: "He lived well but did nothing more extravagant than any other car boss operating in the motor industry." The internal investigation is also said to have looked at the costs of being sued for not delivering competitive engines for the IndyCar racing teams.

Speculation that DRB-Hicom had planned to sell or close Lotus earlier this year prompted political lobbying from local MPs, leading David Cameron to raise the car-maker's future with Malaysia's Prime Minister. After Mr Bahar's sacking, DRB's group managing director, Dato' Sri Haji Mohd Khamil Jamil, repeated that the conglomerate is committed to the Lotus and planned to take the company to the "next level to remain relevant in the global automotive industry".