Thursday, 17 May 2012

Andy Howard

Bob met an English chap called Andy Howard at the Sheraton hotel one day when he popped into the Porsche Design boutique. Bob had taken on a number of different Bahraini staff but none of them lasted in the job for various reasons. Andy was a D.J. on Radio Bahrain and was also working for the Diplomat hotel in the evenings doing poolside events as a D.J. and games show host. He was an extremely tall and lean man with a bubbly outgoing personality and could have probably sold sand to the Arabs! Bob decided to take Andy on to run the PDP Boutique in the Sheraton Hotel and therefore I got involved in interviewing him as well. I had two Porsche cars on constant display in the lower hotel lobby, which he needed to be able to sell, or at least mange the enquiry, until I could drive down to meet the prospective customer. After sleeping on it, we both decided to take Andy on and share his costs.
Andy started off very well indeed and was making a lot of sales. Bob was very happy as this allowed him to get on with marketing and dealing with the distribution of PDP around the wider Middle East, which was a fulltime job on its own.
I called in to see Andy one day to see how things were going and I noticed he was wearing a Porsche Design Titan watch on his wrist. I also saw he has Porsche towels and a few other belongings from Porsche in his car. I asked Andy, “Have you purchased these items?” and he said, “No, but I need to use Porsche products if I am selling them!” I told him that I was not at all happy about this and that he should return the watch to its box and I would be speaking to Bob about this matter.  He was technically stealing stock unless he had permission to take it and as such any permission should be in writing with official sales vouchers. 
I saw Bob back at the office later in the day and he told me that Andy was always pushing to get PDP products to use personally and he also wanted a Porsche car to drive as a company car! I became very alarmed at this and put my foot down saying that we would limit Andy to staff discount on all products and if he wanted a Porsche company car, he had better earn it first!
Shortly after Andy started selling new and used Porsche cars quite successfully, but another trend started to appear in as much as he promised car customers free PDP products; watches, sunglasses and leather goods. Whilst in principal I was not totally against this, he took it upon himself to make these decisions without checking with Bob or me first. I tried to rein him in, but he started playing Bob and I off against each other and he was becoming a difficult person to manage. 
One day Andy called me and said he had arranged for a customer to see the special Porsche 930 turbo “flat nose” we had in stock. This car was grand prix white with the entire interior in can can red leather and matching carpets. Porsche AG had built the flat nose with electric pop up headlamps, additional large aluminium oil cooler in the centre of modified front spoiler, and side panels were added under the doors. The engine was also slightly modified to have 330bhp output. As Porsche produced these modifications themselves it came with the factory standard worldwide warranty.
I had ordered this car for a Sheikh but he had cancelled it prior to its arrival in Bahrain. This sticker price of this car was BD24,000/- and it was the most expensive Porsche we had ever imported, so I did not want to keep it in stock for long. I had told Andy that if he could find a genuine buyer for the flat nose, I would give him a used Porsche 928 to use as his personal company car. I was a great believer in that we should all drive Porsche cars, as we were all effectively sales orientated, no matter what our role was within the Company. 
However when Andy told me he had got a man called John Thomas interested in buying this car I immediately questioned this? I knew John quite well and I was very doubtful if he would buy it, as he was known to be very low key in his personal life in Bahrain. John was one of a handful of British expatriates who had been extremely successful and was a self-made millionaire in his own right, so I knew he could afford it, but somehow doubted he would buy it for himself.
We all met up at the workshop later that day and after speaking to John myself for a few minutes I left Andy to do the selling to him. They both came to see me a while after and to my utter surprise, John told me he would buy the car and he left a cheque there and then, minus the customs duty. John told me he would send an Amiri Court letter down to us the following day and that would allow us to reclaim the customs duty. I thanked him very much indeed for his custom and I asked Rob to prepare the car for delivery the following day. Andy was delighted with making this sale and so was I. 
John duly collected the car and drove it for a few months and then to my utter surprise again, gave it to Mohammed Jalal’s three sons as a present! John was in partnership with Mohammed Jalal, who was a big merchant in Bahrain. Sami Jalal had previously purchased a Porsche 928S from us and then tried to get the Porsche Importership for his own car group, which did not impress me much!
It was some years later in Australia at John’s home in Mount Tambourine on the Gold Coast that I found out the full story behind this gift.
Andy continued to do quite well working with us but he came and announced to me one day that he was flying to Cannes to go on holiday with Sheikh Ali bin Khalifa, the P.M.’s son. I was a bit taken back by this and he said Sheikh Ali had invited him to Cannes and that Andy was going to fly with Sheikh Ali’s Porsche 928S from Bahrain to Paris and drive it down to the south of France for him all expenses paid. I called Sheikh Ali and made sure this was a private arrangement, as I did not want him to think this was official Porsche business and he confirmed he would pay Andy. I was angry with Andy that he had just decided to agree to something with one of our most important customers without consulting me and in any event he should have submitted his holiday request in writing in the first instance for approval.
From then on Andy started running riot and Bob and I decided to sack him for gross misconduct. The next minute he left Bahrain and popped up in Dubai and was working for our Porsche Design partner there, Bin Hindi Enterprises as general manager. Andy then went to see Wolfgang at PDP in Salzburg and told a pack of lies about us and as he now had a very large financially strong company working with him that PDP should appoint him as their regional distributor. He placed a massive order to PDP and in an attempt to undermine us. The lies went on for many months and the following year we heard Andy had been arrested, taken to Court and put in jail in Dubai for stealing from Bin Hindi. Bob knew Bin Hindi very well and went down to smooth things over, but in the meantime he had established his own direct line to PDP, so we lost that business. 
Later we had some fraud investigator contact us from the United Kingdom and Andy Howard was wanted there for taking Porsche cars without paying for them. Andy ended up serving time in Wormwood Scrubs prison after his release from Dubai.

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