Day 2: Peter Waddell’s conduct comes under intense scrutiny as High Court case continues

  • Big Motoring World founder Peter Waddell continues High Court bid to return to company
  • His conduct is described in court as ‘abusive, racist, sexist, misogynistic and irrational’
  • Chances of deal appear slim after 56-year-old lay out his demands yesterday

Time 1:57 pm, May 23, 2024

The conduct of Peter Waddell came under intense scrutiny today as the Big Motoring World founder continued his bid to be reinstated at the car supermarket group.

Yesterday (May 22), we reported the 56-year-old is seeking an interim injunction in the High Court that would allow him to return to the business ahead of a full trial, likely to take place later this year, or early 2025.

The court heard from Waddell’s lawyers, who accused investors Freshstream of ‘freezing out’ the larger-than-life leader via a ‘very questionable’ disciplinary process.

This morning, it was the turn of Bluebell Cars, part of Freshstream, to put its case forward and attention quickly turned to Waddell’s behaviour.

Barrister George Spalton KC described his conduct as ‘abusive, racist, sexist, misogynistic and irrational’ in a bruising morning for Waddell.

He also claimed that allowing Waddell to return to Big Motoring World prior to a trial ‘risks creating genuine harm’ to the company.

‘We are dealing with a situation, sadly, where Mr Waddell’s conduct is out of control,’ he told Court 6 of the Royal Courts of Justice’s Rolls Building.

The lawyer added that if Waddell was allowed to return, senior managers had threatened to quit, banks had threatened to ‘debank’ the company and loans would be ‘impossible to raise’.

The court was also told that in one WhatsApp message, Waddell had allegedly told one employee to ‘go hang yourself’.

Spalton said that relations between Waddell and Freshstream had become ‘toxic’ and that it ‘cannot be right’ that the founder be allowed return.

Chances of deal appear slim

Car Dealer reported this morning that Waddell was willing to drop his calls to be reinstated as a director of the company – but only if certain demands were met.

Firstly. he wants Bluebell Cars – part of investment group Freshstream – to honour voting rights agreed with him as part of its initial investment deal.

The agreement said that Freshstream would not make any ‘material changes to the business or group’ without the written permission of Waddell.

Since being ousted, his lawyers say he has been ‘frozen out’.

Secondly, he is demanding the chance to appoint a non-executive director to the board so that they can act as his ‘eyes and ears’ at Big Motoring World.

Speaking at court today, Waddell’s lawyer –Paul Chaisty KC – said an official proposal had been put to Freshstream last night but no response was received.

Spalton responded by saying that Bluebell Cars had ‘step-in rights’ relating to the agreement, which could be enforced if issues were raised about the company’s financial performance or Waddell’s conduct.

He added that Big Motoring World had fallen well short of Ebitda targets, achieving just 20.5% of its goal in Q4 of 2023.

An independent expert found the result was ‘not directly caused by the economic recession of the UK’ and Spalton claimed ‘the performance was so bad this is all just shadow boxing’.

Waddell sold a third of Big Motoring World to private equity backer Freshstream in April 2022.

Car Dealer reported in April that the leader had been ousted as a director of the car supermarket group by the holding company.

Waddell told Car Dealer at the time that he was planning to take legal action and proceedings are now under way.

The court was told a full trial ‘ought to be achievable by November’ and is expected to last between seven and 10 days.

The case continues.

Update: Since this article was published Peter Waddell is no longer seeking to be reinstated as a director of Big Motoring World and is instead calling to be handed back back voting and information rights as shareholder of the business

Composite image copyright © Blackball Media 2024

Jack Williams's avatar

Jack joined the Car Dealer team in 2021 as a staff writer. He previously worked as a national newspaper journalist for BNPS Press Agency. He has provided news and motoring stories for a number of national publications including The Sun, The Times and The Daily Mirror.

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