AA boss 'concealed brawl to protect bonus'

By Mark Kleinman, City Editor
The former boss of the AA concealed his involvement in a street brawl with a member of the public to prevent the loss of lucrative bonuses, according to a legal document filed by the breakdown recovery service.
Sky News has obtained a copy of the defence filed at the High Court last week‎ by the AA - the latest salvo in an increasingly bitter legal fight involving the company and Bob Mackenzie, who was ousted as its executive chairman last year.
The document alleges that Mr Mackenzie asked his company driver to lie about the ‎circumstances in which he broke his ankle during an altercation in London in September 2016, causing him to miss presentations with major City investors HSBC and Henderson Group.According to the AA's defence, Mr Mackenzie "never disclosed the details of the incident or the police interview or the risk of prosecution to the [AA board]."The defence alleges: "The claimant's decision to be untruthful, and to ask, instruct, or otherwise pressure his driver to lie for him, was made because he appreciated that his conduct would affect his continued employment and/or bonus award."Mr Mackenzie was sacked for gross misconduct following‎ a fight in a hotel bar with another AA executive, and has since been suffering from mental health problems.
AA boss 'concealed brawl to protect bonus'

Mr Mackenzie was ousted as AA's executive chairman last year
In its defence, the AA denied Mr Mackenzie's claims that fellow directors had been aware ‎of stress he said he had been under in the build-up to the incident, and accused him of repeatedly stalling plans to recruit a new chief executive.The financial stakes in their legal battle are potentially significant because the AA has taken steps to seize control of roughly 33 million shares that Mr Mackenzie believes could be worth up to €220m.In its defence, lawyers for the AA said it had offered to "undertake not to cancel or re-issue or re-allocate the Management Value Plan shares to any other member of staff of director prior to the conclusion of these proceedings" if Mr Mackenzie agrees to their transfer by April 12.That deadline was missed, leading to the AA taking "the necessary steps to register the transfer of the Mackenzie shares" on April 16, it said.Under the terms of the incentive scheme, Mr Mackenzie was handed 55% of the participating shares, which would pay out based on returns to AA shareholders between three and five years after their award.
However, the roadside recovery company, which used to style itself as "the fourth emergency service", has seen a calamitous decline in its share price, casting doubt over whether the MVP shares will ever have any material value.In the document seen by Sky News, the AA gives an undertaking to transfer Mr Mackenzie's share pot back to him if "the court determines that the claimant was not a Bad Leaver‎ for the purposes of the MVP Share Scheme".The AA's defence also sheds further light on potential corporate activity considered by the company, including a takeover approach early last‎ year which Sky News has disclosed was made by the buyout firm Hellman & Friedman.In his claim, Mr Mackenzie alleged that the motivation for his sacking was that executive colleagues wished to remove him because he objected to a merger or takeover.The AA denied that this had been the case, suggesting that he had been "in favour of exploring it further and attended two meetings with representatives of the private equity firm"‎.Mr Mackenzie has also filed a claim against the AA at an employment tribunal, while the company is seeking to claw back from Mr Mackenzie more than €1.2m in bonuses as well as possible damages relating to the adverse impact of recent events on the company's reputation.Mr Mackenzie was responsible for bringing the AA to the London stock market in 2014, but it has since been wrestling with a heavily indebted balance sheet.Simon Breakwell, the company's new chief executive, has cut its dividend and warned on profits as he seeks to reduce its debt pile.
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On Monday afternoon, shares in the AA were trading at 139p, giving the company a market capitalisation of just €850m.The shares have slumped by 47% during the last year
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