On this day in auto history - October 9th

Sat 9th Oct 2021

It was on this day in 1977 that an already strike-ridden, crisis-hit British Leyland was plunged into further turmoil after it emerged that its outspoken Chairman, Sir Richard Dobson, had been taped making grossly offensive remarks at a private dinner. 

The recently-knighted industrialist - also the Chairman of British American Tobacco - had only been in the British Leyland hot-seat for 18 months when secretly recorded tapes were leaked to the media of him using a racial slur during a speech at the Dorchester Hotel, London.

A full transcript of Dobson’s colourful speech - which also irked the fury of workers over its labelling of trade unionists as “bastards” - was published by the magazine Socialist Challenge and was later picked up by The Times newspaper, all of which led to a public clamour for the chairman’s resignation. 

Within a few days Dobson was forced to stand down by the National Enterprise Board and was replaced by Chloride Group Director Michael Edwardes.

Dobson - who retained his numerous other directorships despite his new-found public infamy - eventually faded from the headlines before passing away at the age of 79 in 1993.