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Wednesday, 10 May, 2000, 01:12 GMT 02:12 UK
Triumphant Rover's return
John Towers
Staff greeted John Towers like an FA Cup winner
By Business Correspondent Mark Foster

John Towers stepped out of the Rover 75 he had just driven through the gates of Longbridge to be greeted like a conquering hero.

He was immediately flanked by the waiting media and as he made his way towards the conference centre workers patted him on the back like an FA Cup winner on his way to collect a medal.

To the workers and their families, Mr Towers has emerged the hero of the hour.

They know him from his days as chief executive of Rover, a post he quit shortly after BMW took over six years ago.

Fortunes transformed

During his time at the helm, the notoriously strike-happy Longbridge plant enjoyed trouble-free industrial relations as Towers turned a 40m loss into a 90m profit.

He once described the workforce as a company's greatest asset - little wonder then he has made the workers shareholders in the new Rover venture.

One-third of the assets will be held in trust for the workforce.

Even so 1,000 people will have to go.

Towers car
Nothing overshadowed a sun-drenched Longbridge

Normally job losses on that scale would cast a pall over any factory but Rover already has a queue of 3,000 volunteers for redundancy.

Given the many thousand jobs that could have gone under closure or sale to Alchemy, nothing was going to overshadow a sun-drenched Longbridge.

Throughout the day workers had gathered for celebrations outside Q Gate and on the grass of Cofton Park opposite - once the scene of many a mass meeting but now a small media encampment with satellite dishes and radio masts blending in with the trees.

The now familiar John Bull was resplendent in his hunting pink and was accompanied by three British bull dogs - symbolising the determination here to succeed with the Phoenix bid.

Anger and emotion

They say there is no place for sentiment in business but the Rover saga has seen an outpouring of anger and emotion.

I asked John Towers if he was glad to be back on familiar ground and he replied he had seen good days and bad days at Longbridge but this was an emotional day.

He added he felt that emotion was one of the things which had helped push through the Phoenix deal.

The tide of public feeling for Rover to be saved had got the members of the consortium to rally to the flag and supported them in their round-the-clock negotiations with BMW.

See also:

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09 May 00 | UK Politics
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09 May 00 | Business
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