Melrose takes blow as top GKN vet­eran walks away

The Sunday Telegraph - Money & Business - - Business - By Alan Tovey

MELROSE’S plans for a turn­around of GKN – the engi­neer­ing busi­ness it bought for £8.1bn af­ter a bit­ter takeover bat­tle – have been dealt a blow af­ter a top ex­ec­u­tive quit.

Phil Swash is to de­part as head of the com­pany’s au­to­mo­tive arm. The di­vi­sion gen­er­ates more than half the com­pany’s £10.4bn an­nual sales and £377m of prof­its.

His de­par­ture was de­scribed by one insider as “am­i­ca­ble but en­tirely Phil’s de­ci­sion”. How­ever it leaves the turn­around in­vestor with­out a key fig­ure as it be­gins an am­bi­tious plan to boost mar­gins at GKN. Im­prov­ing prof­its was a cen­tral plank of Melrose’s strat­egy to per­suade in­vestors to sup­port its hos­tile bid.

Swash joined GKN in 2007 on the aero­space arm, tak­ing con­trol of its Driv­e­line busi­ness in 2015

A GKN insider said: “Melrose needs ex­pe­ri­enced peo­ple like Phil be­cause they’ve got no ex­pe­ri­ence of run­ning an au­to­mo­tive busi­ness.”

As part of the takeover process GKN’S board re­signed as di­rec­tors in April, but key staff such as Swash and his op­po­site num­ber at the aero­space unit – Hans Buthker – were asked to stay on.

Swash joined GKN in 2007 in the aero­space arm and took on in­creas­ingly se­nior roles, be­fore as­sum­ing con­trol of its au­to­mo­tive busi­ness in 2015.

In the midst of the bid, Swash pro­duced fore­casts for its GKN’S elec­tric driv­e­lines, which makes parts for BMW and Volvo, pre­dict­ing sales would leap from £33m to £500m in 2022. Later, GKN re­vealed a plan to merge the di­vi­sion with US ri­val Dana. It was scup­pered when GKN share­hold­ers ap­proved the Melrose takeover. A GKN spokesman said: “We have been work­ing closely with Phil to re­align the au­to­mo­tive busi­ness. We have a great deal of re­spect for the job he has done.”

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