UK boss exits amid G4S tagging inquiry

Gideon Spanier
Friday 25 October 2013 01:00
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G4S has parted ways with the head of its UK division in the latest upheaval at the troubled security giant, which is battling to mend its relationship with the Government after a catalogue of woes.

Richard Morris, a 10-year veteran of G4S, had only been regional chief executive of UK and Ireland since October 2012. He got the job after the previous incumbent quit in the wake of the bungled 2012 Olympics security contract. Before taking the UK role, Mr Morris was group managing director for G4S Care and Justice Services from early 2011.

He has left with immediate effect on contractual terms, suggesting he will receive his notice period.

Those close to G4S maintained it was his decision to resign but the timing of his exit looks significant amid the continued row with the Ministry of Justice over claims G4S and fellow outsourcer Serco overcharged for the electronic tagging of prisoners.

G4S maintains no dishonesty took place but is urgently trying to make peace with the Government, a valuable customer, which is poised to complete its own investigation into the tagging fiasco imminently.

The FTSE 100 company has pulled out of the bidding for some new Whitehall contracts until the crisis is resolved, potentially costing G4S many millions in lost revenue.

The chief operating officer Eddie Ashton, a clean pair of hands who only joined G4S in July, has taken over from Mr Morris.

The chief executive Ashley Almanza, another newcomer who arrived from gas group BG in May, is on a mission to restore the reputation of the world's biggest provider of security services.

His predecessor, Nick Buckles, stepped down in May with a reported £16m package after a troubled reign, including a failed bid for Danish rival ISS and the Olympics fiasco, when G4S failed to provide enough trained staff.

Mr Morris's predecessor as head of UK and Ireland, David Taylor-Smith, and Ian Horseman Sewell, managing director of global events, were the main fall guys for the Olympics when they were axed in September 2012. Just a few weeks before the London Games, Mr Horseman Sewell had fatefully claimed he could "deliver two Olympics" at the same time.

The Ministry of Justice row is arguably more serious than a one-off crisis like the Olympics, and Mr Almanza has said he is "determined to deal with these issues".

City investors are watching the progress of G4S closely as it has a £4bn stock-market capitalisation and has been a reliable dividend payer.

The shares plunged by a fifth this year but have recovered some of that ground in recent months.

Mr Morris, a trained accountant, spent the early part of his career at Royal Mail and joined Securicor, part of G4S, in 2003.

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