December 2017
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Would you trust Dr Ros Altman and Saga?

Dr Ros Altman, with her Tony-Blair-like permatan, is forever being quoted in the media as she “fights” for pensioners. She’s certainly an impressive figure as her website explains “Dr. Ros Altmann is Director-General of the Saga Group. She is a pensions and economics policy expert and former investment banker, who has advised Governments, corporations, trustees and the pensions industry”. And she was the winner of Women in Public Life Public Affairs Achiever of the Year 2011.

But what about Saga – the company which she heads up? Is it as caring as the lovely Ros seems to be?

In 2004, the AA was bought by two private equity companies( CVC and Permira) who quickly paid themselves hundreds of millions in a special dividend while firing 3,500 of the AA’s 11,400 staff. Then in 2006, The AA was merged with Saga (also owned by a private equity company).

The merger seems to have had two purposes. One was to exploit cross-selling opportunities – selling AA products to Saga customers and Saga products to AA customers. This has been hugely successful and the AA has shot ahead of its rival (the RAC) in turnover and profitability. The second was to allow the City slickers to extract a huge wad of cash for themselves – the three private equity companies paid themselves a £2bn dividend while loading the combined company with £4.8bn of debt. At the time, 18 MPs signed an early day motion proposing “venture capitalists threaten UK companies and jeopardise workers’ futures”.

Since then, the City looters have siphoned off hundreds of millions more while increasing debt to £6.6bn, turning the business into what’s called a “zombie company” – a company that is living dead – it can stumble on but has so much debt that it cannot generate enough cash to invest. The wonderful thing about turning the company into a zombie (for the billionaire owners) is that interest on debt is tax deductible. Moreover, should the company fall on hard times and be unable to pay its debts – tens of thousands will lose their jobs, but the City scum will walk away billions richer.

All this poses a question – does the fragrant Dr Ros really give a toss about the over fifties her company so successfully targets? Or is she just the acceptable public face of an aggressive selling machine making a few City insiders unbelievably rich?

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