Ex-Clarks boss 'had fears about state of business'

Mike Shearwood, the former chief executive of Clarks shoes Image copyright PA Media
Image caption Mike Shearwood was dismissed in June 2018

The former boss of Clarks shoes has alleged the firm's chairman withheld information from shareholders about the true state of the company's finances.

Ex-chief executive Mike Shearwood also told an employment tribunal he believed board meeting minutes were altered and evidence destroyed.

The 56-year-old told the panel he had been sacked after he raised concerns.

Clarks refutes this, saying Mr Shearwood was fired due to his conduct at work.

On Monday, the panel heard allegations he had made sexist, racist and homophobic comments.

Mr Shearwood is claiming unfair dismissal for the way he was forced to quit the family-owned firm last year.

Addressing the company's financial position, he said: "My concern is we would be trading insolvent and we should go to the shareholders as they would lose their assets.

"I believe we had a duty of care to tell the shareholders who should know the state of the business was dire."

Employment judge Derek Reed asked why he had not approached shareholders directly.

Mr Shearwood said that in his role he reported to chairman Tom O'Neil, who controlled the board, and he would have been fired for going straight to shareholders.

'Tried to influence him'

Judge Reed said: "If you're saying Mr O'Neil was trying to suppress this, and that was the wrong thing, why didn't you do the right thing and tell the shareholders?

"Are you saying you were afraid of being sacked?"

Mr Shearwood replied: "Yes." He added: "My method of working with him was to try to influence him and make him do the right thing."

He told the panel he had not raised any issues at a formal board meeting due to concerns about how Mr O'Neil would react.

Mr Shearwood also claimed Mr O'Neil had asked employee Ed Hayes to alter minutes of meetings and destroy evidence.

Mr Hayes subsequently resigned. Clarks said this was due to his workload commute and young family.

The firm, which has its headquarters in Street, Somerset, said in a statement: "Clarks rejects all allegations raised by Mr Shearwood and we stand by our decision in relation to Mr Shearwood's termination."

The hearing continues.

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