“A flagship both pride of the United Kingdom and perpetual source of annoyance”

Component of a Rolls-Royce aircraft engine at Farnborough Airshow, UK, July 19, 2022.

Tufan Erginbilgic has found his mission. Arrived in January at the head of Rolls-Royce, he assured in May, in an interview with FinancialTimesthat his ambition was to “creating a business that no one would have to worry about”. Curious objective for the boss of the flagship of British mechanics, but not very surprising when you look at the history of this company whose name would be, with Coca-Cola, the most famous brand in the world.

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Latest tile, the lawsuits initiated by the police and Indian justice, announced this Monday, May 29. The company is accused of “criminal conspiracy” with its accomplice British Aerospace, intended to “cheating the Indian government” in a giant contract to manufacture and supply Hawk fighter planes, equipped with Rolls-Royce engines between 2003 and 2012.

An old story that brings to the surface the condemnation of the company, in 2017, by the British Serious Fraud Office for acts of corruption and fraud that spanned almost thirty years in the United Kingdom. Like this time, the leaders of the time had promised hand on heart that they would not be caught there again.

Big Spring cleaning

The current leaders are all the more comfortable doing so today in front of their Indian prosecutors since they were not in charge at the material time. In fact, it is the great spring cleaning at the head of the world giant of aircraft, boat or train engines. Appointed to turn around the company damaged by the Covid-19 years, Tufan Erginbilgic, a British-Turkish former executive of the oil company BP, is spreading acidic comments on the management of his predecessors.

For one of his first factory visits, he compared the company to a “platform on fire”. Then he assured later that he had never seen a company so badly managed, in particular its division of diesel and gas engines. As a result, he made all the division bosses leave and called BP lieutenants to put the finances back on track and lead the transformation of the company, which involves the departure of 9,000 employees.

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It will take energy to stabilize a company which, since its creation by Henry Royce in 1906, has known many vicissitudes. It was nationalized in 1971, its lucrative but small car division was sold, then the company was privatized again in 1987. Rolls-Royce is both the pride of the UK, one of its last strongholds in industrial excellence, and a perpetual source of annoyance. The enfant terrible of the Crown.


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