By Elizabeth Anderson Friday, 25 January 2013

G4S boss Buckles on his hairy Olympics moment

Chief executive of Olympics security blunderer G4S Nick Buckles on being grilled by the select committee, hairstyles and hanging on to his job.

We should never have agreed the Olympic contract. When we took on the work, it didn’t sound too difficult to provide 2,000 staff. It became a problem when we had to increase that to 10,000 people within five months. We expected a ramp-up, but it happened much too quickly.

I’d only spent about half an hour preparing for the select committee in July and I got a real grilling. It was three days after we’d admitted the problem and I was working right up until the day before trying to sort it. G4S didn’t deliver and I accepted responsibility. I wasn’t evasive, I replied to all the questions – they just didn’t like the answers.

After my appearance, I got lots of comments about my hair, which is something I’d never really thought about. My hair has always been varying length. I’ve had it much shorter in the past, although not much longer. It definitely wasn’t a mullet.

People speculated that I would step down, but that would have been the wrong thing to do. You don’t change a CEO in a crisis – and I wouldn’t be here if the shareholders and the board didn’t support me. I’ve been in the business for 28 years and I’ll stay as long as I’m wanted.

G4S is still a well-respected government supplier and we haven’t been blacklisted. Our UK government business is showing double-digit growth. We didn’t win any of the prison contracts just before Christmas, but that’s partly as the Government kept half of them state-run.

I love going to music festivals. I do about five or six a year from Reading to the Isle of Wight. I usually camp, though it’s more like glamping, to be honest. Sometimes I’ll go with my kids, who are in their early 20s, or I’ll go with my girlfriend. My favourite band is Biffy Clyro.

Margaret Thatcher is the leader I most admire. She stuck firmly to her convictions and probably achieved the biggest turnaround ever.

Last year was one I was happy to put behind me. G4S was little known before the Olympics. Now we’re known for the wrong reasons, but G4S is a real British success story.

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