Lotus chief executive Dany Bahar suspended

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The Independent Online

Dany Bahar, the multi-millionaire head of struggling Lotus Cars, has been suspended from his role as chief executive officer of the Norwich-based automotive group over his alleged "conduct".

DRB Hicom, the Malaysian owners of Group Lotus, confirmed the move last night after rumours circulated at the Hethel plant in Norfolk yesterday. Mr Bahar, pictured, the Turkish-Swiss flamboyant boss of Lotus, who had been due to attend the opening of a new Lotus Originals store in Monaco yesterday afternoon, cancelled at the last moment. A DRB spokesman said Mr Bahar had been temporarily suspended from his role to facilitate an investigation into a complaint about his conduct made by Lotus's parent company, DRB-Hicom Berhad.

Speculation over the future of Lotus has been circulating for weeks over fears that the new owners, DRB, were planning to sell the company, which employs 1,200 people at Hethel, to the Chinese. DRB acquired Lotus when it bought its owner, Proton, earlier this year and has been weary of pumping money into the loss-making car-maker until it had made a review of its future. Local sources said the parent was drip-feeding money into Lotus, which has debts of £200m, but that if new investment was not made the company would run out of funds within weeks.

It is understood that Mr Bahar had been talking to potential buyers, including Chinese companies such as China Youngman and Geely, now owners of Volvo, as well as other prospective owners. As boss of Lotus, Mr Bahar (pictured), who earns £1.2m a year, has a generous contract with DRB which means if Lotus is sold, or floated, he will receive 5 per cent of the enterprise value, or shares equal to the same amount.

DRB has now put its own representatives in charge of Lotus. A spokesman said: "The penultimate holding company would like to stress it is business as usual at Lotus. We fully support the company and will continue to support Lotus in its business endeavours and development."

Mr Bahar was unavailable for comment.