American buyout under fire from Addison Lee boss
By Leah Montebello
NEW management installed by private equity made ‘a hash’ of taxi firm Addison Lee, according to the firm’s boss, who bought back his family business.
Liam Griffin, the chief executive of Addison Lee and son of founder John, told The Mail on Sunday that American buyout barons Carlyle took over the business his father set up in 1975 and then parachuted in bosses to run the firm.
‘When they first came in, I was completely in awe of their world,’ he said. ‘You go, oh my God. They are so clever.’
Carlyle had bought a majority stake in Addison Lee in 2013 for £300million, turning the Griffin family into millionaires. But Griffin said it was ‘painful to watch’ after the firm’s finance director Andrew Boland was promoted to become chief executive.
Griffin said Carlyle provided firepower to invest that had not been previously available, but he added: ‘Good ideas need to be executed well and you have to rely on management to do that.’
Griffin quit in 2018 after falling out with the new bosses and was even banned from entering the company’s building. By that time it was posting losses of £39million.
He bought the firm back in 2020 for £125 million with his own money and cash from Cheyne Capital.
The problems under Carlyle’s ownership partly stemmed from a plan to expand Addison Lee’s taxi services to major cities across the UK and US – moving away from its traditional focus on ferrying office workers around the City.
‘This was a great idea, but really badly executed,’ Griffin said. ‘Unfortunately [Boland and his team] were not able to deliver what was needed.
‘For private equity, where they lack knowledge and experience, they buy it in. So we ended up with consultants coming out of our ears. We had layers upon layers of management all telling the layer below what they should and shouldn’t do, and nobody actually doing anything. I learned a lot of lessons.’
The company, which has a fleet of 7,500 vehicles, has seen business bounce back from the pandemic.
It reported profits of £19million in 2022 from £7.9million in the previous year. Carlyle declined to comment. Boland was contacted for comment.
Financial Mail On Sunday
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