A legal battle between the AA and its former chairman is poised to escalate after he filed to take the company to an employment tribunal over his sacking.
Sky News has learnt that Bob Mackenzie, who was ousted in July, has submitted a claim against the AA that will form part of an effort to recoup millions of pounds from the breakdown recovery service.
Details of the tribunal claim were unclear, although one source said that lawyers for Mr Mackenzie had only filed it very recently.
In a statement issued to Sky News on Monday, an AA spokeswoman said: “We are astonished that Mr Mackenzie is taking this to an employment tribunal.
“We stand by our decision to dismiss him for gross misconduct following his sustained and violent assault on another employee of the AA, and will robustly defend any action.”
A spokesman for the former chairman declined to comment.
Mr Mackenzie’s sacking was carried out on the grounds of gross misconduct following an altercation with a senior colleague in the bar of a country hotel.
Subsequent investigations by the AA’s legal team led the company to demand that he repay more than £1.2m in bonuses over an allegation that he was involved in another altercation.
Mr Mackenzie is understood to be resisting that request.
Image: The AA has more than three million personal roadside assistance members
The company’s annual report for 2016-17 disclosed that Mr Mackenzie was paid an annual bonus in 2016 of about £700,000 and approximately £500,000 the following year – the aggregate sum being the amount now sought by the AA.
Mr Mackenzie’s contract had entitled him to bonus payments in each year up to a maximum of £900,000.
A row last summer between Mr Mackenzie and Michael Lloyd, the head of the AA’s insurance arm, turned into a physical conflict which triggered one of 2017’s most extraordinary boardroom dramas.
It subsequently emerged that Mr Lloyd and other members of the AA’s board were keen to explore a merger of its insurance business with Hastings, a listed group – a move opposed by Mr Mackenzie.
The former AA chairman was hospitalised after the encounter with Mr Lloyd, and has been publicly described by his son as receiving treatment for mental health issues.
Mr Mackenzie was responsible for bringing the AA to the London stock market in 2014, but has since been wrestling with a heavily indebted balance sheet.
The dispute over his past bonuses is not the only contentious legal issue relating to Mr Mackenzie’s departure from the company.
He also participated in a potentially lucrative reward scheme which is due to pay out depending upon returns to shareholders during the five years after its flotation.
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However, the weak performance of the AA’s shares have cast doubt over whether that scheme will pay out material sums.
On Monday, shares in the AA were trading at 165.4p, giving the company a market capitalisation of exactly £1bn.