Britain's least admired companies: And bringing up the rear

Banks, bookies and the beeb are among this year's low flyers.

by Andrew Saunders
Last Updated: 04 Dec 2013

So much for the winners, they've had their moment in the spotlight, lauded by the great and the good, sitting smugly in the smart seats only a step away from the podium. What about those at the other end of the scale, lurking well down table, squashed into that dismal corner between the kitchen door and the lavatories?

Here they are - Britain's Least Admired Companies. At 238 - 10th least admired - comes bookmaker Ladbrokes. A failure to keep pace in the digital age is at the root of its woes: it issued four profit warnings in just over a year, as punters abandoned the high street betting shop and voted with their thumbs in favour of rivals offering superior online and mobile betting experiences. CEO Richard Glynn announced in September that profits from digital could be as little as £10m, a hefty £17.5m off forecast. The odds on a takeover bid next year have shortened considerably - perhaps from CVC, which failed to get its hands on Betfair this year.

Hotel group Best Western GB - a kind of federation of independent hotels for mutual support and marketing - eschews the flashy high-ranking debuts of other first-time BMAC businesses to make a more modest entrance at, er, 239. But at least it fared marginally better than rival Travelodge, whose 500-strong chain of cheap but not so cheerful hotels was recently voted the second worst in the UK by the Consumers' Association Which? magazine. Not even best at being worst, that's got to hurt.

Despite its name, FirstGroup is once again among the last. The UK's largest rail operator is responsible for such travellers' delights as First Capital Connect, First Great Western and First ScotRail. But CEO and ex-Tube boss Tim O'Toole has cut first-half losses to £8m, so things might be on the up at last.

And even down here in the bowels of the BMAC league table there are grounds for optimism.

The bottom 10 in 2013 scored a total of 377.5 between them, seven points more than last year. The flame of hope may gutter at such Stygian depths, but it still manages to cast a faint light.

Not much of that light is reaching the BBC, however, after an annus horribilis that would make even Her Maj sit up and take notice. At 228th overall, it escapes the Least Admired Top 10, but deserves a special mention because it manages to come last overall in the use of corporate assets category (tell that to all those recently ex execs who trousered whopping payoffs on their way out) and second from last for quality of management. Plenty for new DG Tony Hall to get to work on there.

Last year's second-least-admired company, Enterprise Inns, manages to drag itself a few places higher to seventh from last this year. The UK's largest pubco has 6,000 boozers and has just done a £100m debt-refinancing deal on improved terms. Trouble is, it owes a total of £2.5bn, so that's just a drop in the ocean.

It seems to be a case of 'physician, heal thyself' for Hunts-worth in third-to-last place, the company behind comms agencies Citigate, Grayling and Red. A PR firm with an image problem - surely some mistake?

Propping up the entire 247-company-strong table this year are two banks with more than their fair share of troubles. Second-from-bottom Co-op Bank is down to 246th from 144th last year after the collapse of its bid for the 600 ex-Lloyds (now TSB) branches. Given the extra-curricular activities of former chairman Rev Paul 'The Crystal Methodist' Flowers - he of the on-camera drugs deal and 'gay orgy' allegations - it's no wonder the bank missed that £1.5bn hole in its balance sheet until it was too late. Is the rescue deal now in doubt?

But the wooden spoon for Britain's Least Admired Company 2013 goes to Bank of Ireland. Historically the premier bank in the Republic and dating back to 1781, it has fallen far and fast since the crash of 2008. This year, it dynamited its already tattered reputation in the industry by unilaterally doubling the interest rates on tracker mortgages, despite the record low base rate. Better luck next year?

THE 10 LEAST ADMIRED COMPANIES

247

Bank of Ireland

34.07

246

Co-operative Bank

34.87

245

Huntsworth

35.40

244

Allied Irish Bank

35.93

243

Cable & Wireless Communications

36.83

242

Travelodge UK

38.05

241

Enterprise Inns

38.94

240

FirstGroup

41.04

239

Best Western

41.08

238

Ladbrokes

41.17

Find this article useful?

Get more great articles like this in your inbox every lunchtime