The fortunes of Capita's CEO rose as his firm became this country's biggest contractor of government services. But its entanglement in a string of public controversies - it has been dubbed 'Britain's most unpopular company' - have put him on the back foot.
Rod Aldridge jumps up out of his chair. He attacks the white board in his office with a blue felt-tip pen, drawing diagrams and lines between them. One circle represents the private sector, which is where he is; another circle represents the public sector, where a lot of his customers are. A couple of squiggly lines show the links between them. 'In the private sector, you've got fast-moving, solution-driven people,' he says, pointing proudly to his circle. 'In the public sector, you've got people who are cautious and don't have commercial skills. The critical thing you have to work on is the interface between them.'
In the past few months, Aldridge has had a lot of experience of how treacherous the territory between those two blue circles can get. His company, Capita, has in the past decade been one of the most formidable success stories of British industry. Only 15 years after its formation, it is an established member of the Footsie, with a value of pounds 1.7 billion. It has made Aldridge a pounds 100 million-plus fortune. And it touches just about everyone in the country. Capita is the biggest contractor of government services. It collects television licence fees and council tax payments, and runs depart- ments, divisions and government programmes.