Buckles’ fault was to promise more than he could ever deliver

Elizabeth Fournier
WHEN you aim high and deliver, you’re a hero. But when you ramp up expectations only to miss them – and then do it again, and again – it’s not long until investors are calling for your head on a plate.

For Nick Buckles the nightmare 18 months that led to his departure yesterday started in November 2011, when he took personal blame for G4S’ collapsed merger with Danish cleaning company ISS, admitting he had let down shareholders by trying to push through a £5.2bn deal when the market was all but dead. Then came the Olympics fiasco – where Buckles let down not just investors but the government (not to mention the British public) too – leaving G4S as one of the only parties to come out of 2012’s jubilant summer at the bottom of the leaderboard. Still, shareholders tend to be easily assuaged if the money is rolling in, which is where the former Avon man finally met his match. After eight years of steady – albeit unremarkable – share price growth, a profit warning just two weeks ago that the firm put down to increasingly squeezed margins sent the stock plunging 15 per cent. The die was cast.

Though shareholders were happy to see him go yesterday, margins aren’t the sort of problem that can be instantly solved by a change at the top. New boss Ashley Almanza has a lot of catching up to do if he wants to make the podium.