The colourful businessman who fought a running battle with the owner of Southend Airport last year is turning his attention to its former corporate bedfellow by plotting a raid on the struggling haulier Eddie Stobart Logistics.
Sky News has learnt that Andrew Tinkler has notified advisers to Eddie Stobart that he is interested in participating in a refinancing of the company – which could involve making an offer for it.
The move floats the intriguing prospect of Mr Tinkler returning to a company that he ran successfully for a decade until 2014 and which was for years part of the wider Stobart Group.
It also sets up a potential clash between Mr Tinkler’s vehicle and funds managed by DBAY Advisors, which has also expressed an interest in bidding for Eddie Stobart – and which bought 51% of the business from Mr Tinkler five years ago.
Further details of Mr Tinkler’s approach to Eddie Stobart’s advisers were unclear on Tuesday night, but banking sources said he had requested access to materials required to conduct due diligence on the company.
Eddie Stobart – known for its distinctive lorries seen on motorways throughout Britain – was plunged into crisis last month when its shares were suspended and its chief executive ousted after errors were discovered in previous earnings statements.
Earlier this week, Eddie Stobart said it now anticipated that profits this year would be materially below the board’s expectations, adding that it was reviewing all strategic options including an equity-raise.
It also said it was scrapping its final dividend.
City sources said it was conceivable that Mr Tinkler would seek to participate in a capital-raising that would give him a significant stake in the company but without requiring him to make a formal takeover bid.
His interest in the situation promises to write another chapter in the story of an industrial name which has rarely been out of the City spotlight in recent times.
At Stobart Group, Mr Tinkler was sacked as a director last year and then mounted a legal case to be reinstated, accusing the board of gerrymandering the vote to keep him at bay.
A bitter legal fight then ensued which found that Mr Tinkler had breached his director’s duties but also resulted in Stobart withdrawing its allegation that he had made improper expenses claims.
Mr Tinkler has a considerable following in the City, having delivered a total return to shareholders of 261% during his ten-year tenure at the helm of the unified Stobart Group.
His acrimonious departure has not diminished his desire to play a role in the future of the two companies which carry the Stobart name.
Mr Tinkler still owns about 5% of Stobart Group, which has operations in aviation, energy and infrastructure.
To complicate matters, Stobart Group also has an economic interest in its former sister company.
The crisis at Eddie Stobart delivered a further blow to the embattled fund manager Neil Woodford, who owns over 20% of the company.
The company’s shares have performed dismally since its return to the stock market in 2017.
They listed at 160p, valuing the company at more than £570m, but are now worth just 71p.
The shares have slumped by 47% in the last year alone.
An Eddie Stobart spokesman declined to comment, while Mr Tinkler could not be reached for comment.