AA finance boss nicknamed ‘the sledgehammer’ quits to support anti-Brexit party Change UK
The AA’s finance boss has quit after five years so he can devote his time to anti-Brexit party Change UK.
Martin Clarke has stepped down immediately and does not have another job.
He previously worked for private equity companies, where his robust approach earned him the nickname ‘the sledgehammer’.
The AA’s finance boss has quit to return to private investing politics with Change UK
He was accused of bullying – which he denies – by former chief executive Bob Mackenzie, who was sacked following a punch-up in 2017.
In a statement, the finance director said: ‘For me, now is the right time to return to my twin passions of private investing and politics.’
Clarke, 62, was a long-time Labour supporter and previously donated money to Yvette Cooper, and has been a vocal critic of Jeremy Corbyn.
But he is also a close friend of Chuka Umunna, who founded Change UK alongside six other anti-Brexit MPs, and is known to have switched allegiance.
Clarke is not running in the upcoming European elections as a candidate for Change UK, which is campaigning to overturn the EU referendum result.
But his abrupt departure from the roadside assistance firm has prompted questions about whether he is considering taking a more active position in the new party.
Clarke said it was the right time to leave the AA after it recently refinanced and unveiled its full-year results – which revealed it lost 80,000 customers in 2018 and that profits plunged 62 per cent.
He added: ‘I remain a major personal investor in the company and wish it well for the future.’
He holds a 0.2 per cent stake in the AA, which is worth around £800,000, and earned £560,000 last year.
Another member of the finance team, Mark Strickland, has been appointed interim chief financial officer of the AA, which provides car insurance and breakdown cover. The AA said it has already started a search for a permanent successor.
Clarke was one of the AA bosses who was accused by Mackenzie of bullying in the run-up to a hotel brawl in 2017 that cost Mackenzie his job.
Mackenzie said he was picked on by fellow staff and was suffering severe psychological problems when he attacked insurance chief Mike Lloyd.
Analysts at Citi said: ‘A change in management is invariably viewed by the market with a degree of suspicion, particularly, as in this case, when the change is with immediate effect.’
Change UK was not available for comment last night.