Phoenix will give 30% stake to the staff

The Deal Makers
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The Independent Online

"It came together as a collection of people, a collection of conversations and a collection of ideas that seemed to me to have merit." Thus did John Towers explain yesterday how the Phoenix consortium started to fly.

When the existence of the consortium first emerged a month ago, few gave it much chance of success. Even after the deal with BMW had been signed and sealed yesterday morning at the offices of its London solicitors, there was still some disbelief that Phoenix had actually pulled it off.

Mr Towers, a former chief executive of Rover, is very much the lynchpin of the seven-strong consortium. He is also one of the four members of Phoenix who have backed the rescue of Rover with their own money.

The other three Phoenix members who have also invested in the deal are John Edwards, who owns the car dealership Edwards of Banbury, Peter Beale, Edwards' finance director, and Nick Stephenson, another former Rover executive who now works for Lola cars.

The other members are Brian Parker, a West Midlands financier with a background in banking, broking and property development, Terry Whitmore, the managing director of the car components group Mayflow-er, and David Bowes, another Lola executive who once worked at Longbridge.

The consortium is very much a marriage born of self-interest, not to say self-preservation. For Mr Edwards, the damage to the dealer network had BMW closed Rover or sold it to Alchemy, which had much more modest plans, would have been immense. Mayflower, as the supplier of MGF body shells to the Longbridge plant, also had a direct interest in seeing the business survive. Mr Towers has formed a holding company, Tectronic 2000, to buy Rover. But the eventual aim is to put ownership in the hands of a trust in which the Rover workforce would have a 30 per cent stake.

What motivated Mr Towers was a burning belief that, four years after he had parted company with Rover because of a falling out with BMW, there was a business that could be turned back into profit with a little more understanding. As he said yesterday when entering the Longbridge plant to the cheers of the workforce, "This has been quite an emotional day for me."