Food for Thought: Gavin Wheeldon Departs from Applied Language Solutions
It’s no surprise that most of the key people at Applied Language Solutions involved in the Ministry of Justice Framework Agreement have jumped or been pushed out. CEO Gavin Wheeldon left the company last week, reportedly to join an outfit running curry courses, called IntaFood.
Wheeldon’s departure is an interesting twist in the ‘carry-on-court-interpreting’ debacle. Of course, it leaves the question, walked or shoved? When he sold the business to Capita in December, he was full of beans and quoted at length, talking about how ALS would be a stand-alone business and he would be reporting to the Capita board. How Capita was so in love with ALS’s ‘proprietary technology’ and how great it was for the outsourcing giant to move into a new sector. He gave no indication that he planned an exit and perhaps for good reason. The £7.5 million purchase price was cash-free, debt-free which means a fair bit of the cash went on clearing ALS’s substantial debts. Until the accounts are filed and dissected, we won’t know for sure how much went into Mr Wheeldon’s account.
Then the interesting bit. A further £60 million could be paid “if performance targets are met”. What a performance it’s been. The implementation of the Framework Agreement has been a disaster from the start. Conservative estimates put ALS/Capita’s losses on the contract at £20,000 a week. On the MOJ side, it’s been revealed that the Government does not expect the deal to produce the £12 million in savings it hoped for. I wouldn’t put money on Gavin getting his £60 million.
The timing of all of this is interesting. The National Audit Office is poking around the corridors of the MOJ. We can’t pre-empt its findings, but it is possible it is not going to be pretty. Suddenly one of the key players (Mr Wheeldon) moves on to IntaFood to make curry and the Government starts fessing up it’s not saving any money. In the murky Whitehall world, of which Capita plc is well embedded, some may suggest it looks like a bit of pre-emptive action ahead of something rather unpleasant coming down the line.
Remember, this all singing, all dancing new system of interpreters was supposed to save a fortune! The only beneficiary appears to be the curry industry now blessed with the superb business acumen of Gavin Wheeldon. He should take the idea to Dragon’s Den.