‘We shall fight them on the beaches': A message to Winston Churchill’s grandson who leads firm bidding for Calmac ferry routes
22 July 2015
By Keith Mcleod
RUPERT Soames is hoping to clean up Serco’s image with a lucrative CalMac Ferries deal, and the £2m-a-year chief executive holds workers’ future in his hands.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon with Serco boss Rupert Soames.
TODAY the Daily Record invokes the spirit of Sir Winston Churchill as we take on the man who holds the fate of CalMac workers in his hands – the £2million-a-year grandson of the wartime leader.
Rupert Soames OBE is chief executive of Serco, who are bidding for key CalMac ferry routes as part of a plan to revive the firm from their lowest ebb.
Euro rules on competition mean tendering must take place which could have wide implications for CalMac staff and customers.
Serco, who make most of their money through government contracts, are not in the business of running them at a loss – they are trying to rebuild their profits and reputation – but it’s Scottish taxpayers who will be footing the bill.
The company appointed Soames, 56, in 2014 on a pay package worth more than £2million a year. The establishment figure is seen by business analysts as the man to clean up Serco’s image after a series of scandals that happened before his appointment.
The company had been blacklisted by the Government after they charged taxpayers for monitoring the movement of dead criminals. They were also implicated in malpractice at a detention centre for asylum seekers.
Soames, who owns half of a vast Highland sporting estate, said earlier this year that he will forsake his £900,000 bonus while going cap in hand to investors for £555million to keep the company afloat.
A writedown of £1.3billion – including £250million from some UK work – pushed the group deep into the red after Soames vowed to clean up the firm. The dad of three said: “We have been through the stables and cleared out the manure, which is now sitting in a steaming pile next to some very nice clean stables.”
Choosing him was an opportunity for Serco to revive themselves at the trough of the British establishment through its lucrative public contracts. Eton old boy Soames’s eldest brother is Sir Nicholas Soames, a former Tory defence minister.
His father was Sir Christopher Soames, an ambassador to France and the last governor of Rhodesia. And his mother Mary learned to swear while commanding an anti-aircraft battery in Hyde Park during the blitz.
In his former role as CEO of Glasgow electricity generator giants Aggreko, who make diesel generators and supply temporary power projects, Soames spoke out in Holyrood in 2010 over “bungs” for the renewable energy industry. In what was meant to be a charm offensive, he told MSPs: “We had bungs for windfarms, bungs for micro-generation, bungs for solar, bungs for tidal energy.”
He ranted at government interference in energy markets and “unachievable” goals to reduce carbon emissions, saying: “The great danger facing the UK’s energy policy is that history of meddling with the markets, the persistence with which we reiterate unachievable goals for emissions reduction and the wildly optimistic
forecasts of the availability, cost and performance of new technology.”
He then bamboozled MSPs with a bizarre reference to the energy market. He said it was like Lord Palmerston’s assessment of the 1864 war between Denmark and Prussia.
He waffled: “As Lord Palmerston said of the Schleswig-Holstein question, ‘It is so complicated that only three men have ever understood it. One was Prince Albert, who is dead. The second is a German professor who became mad thinking about it. And the third is me, and I know the answer but have forgotten what the question was.’”
Companies House lists him as being a director of two firms, and a resigned director of 23 companies. Soames owns a half share of the Camusory Estate at Knoydart. The other half is owned by Camusrory Estate, a company registered at a PO box number in Nassau, Bahamas.
The estate, which covers 8053 acres, includes the island of Eilean Maol, retains salmon fishing rights for Loch Nevis, the sea nearby and the River Carnach. Soames bought it for £571,000 in August 2009.