Even with poor financial performance the Company kept spending unnecessary money and one day in February 1997 Percy telephoned me to tell me that he had heard of a new type of refuse collection vehicle with impressive labour saving innovations that offered huge operational savings and that he was interested in finding out more.
He asked me if I would be prepared to visit the factory where they were manufactured and give him my opinion. To be honest I had very little interest in refuse lorries or how they are made but fortunately, before I could decline, he happened to mention that the factory was in Phoenix, Arizona in the United States of America and as quick as a flash my lack of interest transformed into complete and total enthusiasm. Did I want to visit Phoenix to see some dustcarts? You bet I did!
I couldn’t believe my luck and enjoyed four days in the United States where as well as having to visit the Heil refuse collection truck factory, which quite frankly was a bit of a bore, I also got to visit the Grand Canyon and enjoy some top class hospitality. This was a really good trip and on reflection I decided that refuse vehicle manufacture was actually rather interesting after all. We posted the report of our visit (missing out the drinking bits of course) and offered our availability for any similar official trips in the future.
This was a good move because the following year I was sent to La Rochelle in France to look at Semat refuse trucks and later in the same year I went to Milan to see the Brivio factory. It’s amazing how interesting refuse trucks can suddenly become when there is an all expenses overseas trip involved. Later the Company set up a centralised procurement unit under a greedy little man called Rob Stubbs that saved the best gigs for themselves and that was the end of the factory visits and the overseas travel but believe me I enjoyed it while it lasted.
This is La Rochelle – I didn’t take any pictures of the boring factory!
The company never did buy a Heil side loading refuse vehicle, they were absolutely useless for use in the United Kingdom, but I have to say that they were brilliant at hospitality. Jack Allen folded and went out of business just a short while afterwards, which was a shame and the Heil Engineering Plant in Phoenix that had opened in 1990 was closed down in August 2003 and production was switched to Fort Payne in Alabama.
The full story of the four day visit is here at An unexpected travel opportunity
By 1998 Edouard Dupont-Madinier had been responsible for such a string of poor financial results that he was recalled to Paris by the Chief Executive, Jean-Marie Messier,and replaced by a new man. Edouard went on to a position in California and he must have made a better job of it because he is still there. In the same year Percy Powell retired and that proved to be a catalyst for change and an absolute catastrophe for me.
Talking about profligacy and wasting money Messier himself was a master and he was forced to resign from his position with Vivendi in 2002, after the company posted a non-cash loss of 13.6 billion euro during 2001. During his time as Chief Executive, he used corporate funds to buy a $17.5 million apartment for himself at 515 Park Avenue at 60th Street in New York City. After he was fired, he tried to claim the apartment as part of his severance package.
The man chosen to replace Percy was a loathesome and despicable character, a public school ponce and self opinionated ex British Army Captain. I’m not sure why but he took an instant dislike to me and he immediately started to make my life a misery. He picked on me constantly, offered no support when I needed it and could barely disguise his hostility. To be fair I didn’t care for him either, he was a twat, so it was completely unlikely that we would ever get on with each other. He had a shrill high pitched voice and a hawk like face permanently etched with spite and nastiness and he barely had a civil word for me, or anyone else for that matter. It is completely impossible to capture the unpleasantness of this man in just a couple of sentences but, take it from me, he was hateful and contemptible.
The defining moment in the breakdown of our relationship came in the summer of 1999 when I dared to challenge him over what I thought was a poor business decision in a full management meeting. Without warning he lost all self control (slightly worrying for an ex-army captain) launched himself out of his chair sending it flying across the room and in a red faced rage bellowed at me to accompany me to his office. I followed him meekly along the corridor and into his room where he slammed the door with such force that the frame rattled madly for several seconds, pointed at a chair and shouting obscene profanities ordered me to sit down. He subjected me to a few minutes of fierce halitosis and appalling verbal abuse and the most unbusinesslike language. I wisely judged that there was no point answering back so I took it on the chin and then, with a backbone turned to jelly, thought it best to agree with him and apologised. I think this spoilt his fun because he really wanted a fight but my sensible decison meant that we had to return to the meeting room.
All of the building at heard this volcanic verbal eruption and as we walked back along the corridor bewildered faces were pressed against the windows of the offices on either side. My goose was now well and truely cooked!
By 2000 he wanted rid of me and would go to any lengths to achieve it so in June while I was away on holiday in Cephalonia in Greece, he gathered together a bunch of ‘yes people’ conspirators from amongst the Regional Managers, principally Peter Clint, Liz Pullen and Colin Whitehead and announced that due to poor performance (his own mainly) and the need to make efficiencies (to cover up for his incompetence) there would be some job cuts and one of us would have to go.
Of course it had already been decided that it would be me but he was obliged to apply the company redundancy policy and he was having some difficulty in squeezing my name to the top of the list because of the complicated points system that worked in my favour. This was an example of his and the Company’s stupidity because they had rewritten the policy specifically for the purpose of removing me so you would thought they would have made sure that it achieved its purpose.
This wasn’t a surprise of course because there was some real dead wood in there especially his favourite Clint who was the obvious candidate and based on his appalling sickness record and his abysmal academic achievements, rather like Norway in the Eurovision Song Contest, got very few points. Pullen (Cruella deVille without the style or the looks) and Whitehead also struggled to get off the top of the list.
Clint was the worst, a vacuous empty headed twat – a man so thick that you would have to put his brain in a food blender to improve its clarity or capacity for reasoned thinking, he was as dense as an Amazon rain forest, as stodgy as suet pudding, as nasty as dog shit on the sole of a shoe, a man who would make a microbe seem like a genius but on the other hand, as dangerous as an unexploded bomb and as canny as a cart load of monkeys and he managed to divert attention away from his lack of intelligence and total stupidity. Whoops, hang on, I might have been talking about Whitehead there, except for the cockney accent because Whitehead was as thick as a Yorkshire balm cake!
But I had decided that it was time to go anyway because what was the point in staying where you weren’t wanted, I felt out of place, like a bottle of lemonade in Oliver Reed’s drinks cabinet, so I waited until the last moment, made him an offer he couldn’t refuse and he was so relieved he agreed to a generous pay off including the use of the expensive Vauxhall Omega company car for six months (with all my fuel provided, which was an unexpected bonus for me and a surprise for him) and that was the end of my time in waste management in the private sector and I have never missed it for even a fleeting second. It just wasn’t the same anymore, Percy had retired, Mike Jarvis had moved on and I was working with a bunch of nasty creatures who spent their weekends in the bottom of a stagnant pond.
The loathsome Managing Director didn’t last much longer himself and the Company parted company with him shortly afterwards. He went on to become a divisional chief executive of Serco, a company that provides a variety of services and products relating to defence, detention, aviation, and transport.
He is responsible for the company’s Home Affairs division, which provides Gatso speed cameras to local authorities and this is just a brilliant story…
In January 2009 he was caught driving more than a hundred miles per hour on the A14 in Suffolk and he pleaded guilty to the offence and because this was his third speeding conviction (YES 3!) he was banned from driving for six months. In asking the judge not to impose a driving ban, he pathetically lamented that the incident had caused him ‘considerable embarrassment’ and said that the prospect of having to pay £30,000 for private chauffeurs might mean that he would be unable to continue paying for private schools for his three children. What a bloody shame! What a bloody shame it was only six months that is!
The face only a mother could love!