About those who dream of giving up sweaty trips to work and the daily hustle and bustle to go on holidays, play sports and never work again, Liam Griffin says: don’t do it.
His family sold out Addison Lee for £ 300 million in 2013, with Griffin remaining in a taxi until quarreling with private buyers of Carlyle shares in 2015. He then retired at the age of 42.
It was followed by five years of travel, investing in angels, real estate development, triathlon and Ironman – “all if you have a lot of free time” – before he realized, “I missed work”.
“Rana retirement means you lose your sense of purpose, ”he says. “During this time, I read all the books on self-help – it’s not all happiness and light, if you sit at home at 42 without work.”
Griffin has spent his career in taxis, starting with children’s summer vacations in tiny Butters minibus Addison Lee’s office, a business his dad founded in 1975, where “I would appreciate cash registers, fix radio, anything.” He joined the firm after graduating from Loughborough University, taking over as CEO from his father John in 2006.
Griffin claims that the sale of Addison Lee in 2013 was not because of money, but with expansion. He wanted to take Addison Lee to the US and across the UK.
“Then Uber hit the radar. And Carlisle has shut down all our ambitions. ”
It was a difficult partnership: “The transition from family business to private capital was a small culture shock. We never had a board meeting before the takeover. And I didn’t take it very well. ”
Griffin left office in 2015, but remained on the board. Addison Lee fluctuated and by 2018 had lost £ 39 million. Carlisle tried and failed to sell it to avoid losing control by exchanging debt for shares with frustrated fans. Increasingly loud criticism of Griffin led to the fact that his replacement as CEO forbade him to visit the building (“and I owned it!”).
Then came the unfulfilled millionaire years – although they were good for him. The 49-year-old is now tanned and much more relaxed than the average CEO, in a white collarless shirt and boho-style bracelets.
Griffin finally bought Addison Lee in 2020 “for a much lower price than we sold” – they say about 125 million pounds. He used his own money as well as support led by Cheyne Capital.
There was one wrinkle: he didn’t call founder Addison Lee to discuss his return first. “My dad wasn’t very supportive,” Griffin said, looking miserable. “I was a little disappointed with his lack of enthusiasm for me to come back and do it. I think he thought we couldn’t do it again without him. “
The first day of Griffin’s return was March 23, 2020: “A few hours after I walked in the door, Boris Johnson said the country was stopping.” Addison Lee had to park 2,000 unneeded cars in a field near Heathrow.
“On the other hand,” Griffin says very optimistically, “it meant we managed to cut the business to the bone. They had all these managers who actually didn’t do anything. 550 people were sold, 900 people were bought out, but [drivers were] actually does [fewer] jobs the day we redeemed it. We kept money to a minimum and had to continue for two years. ”
Today, business is booming, travel requests are above the pandemic level. This year, Addison Lee’s mini-cab transported 1.8 million passengers and another 630,000 parcels through its courier service. For the year to September 2021, base income was around £ 8 million.
But Griffin had a new problem: staff.
“We are giving up a lot of work. We still have 400-500 [unused, parked] vehicles in which we can put drivers tomorrow. People have found alternative jobs as courier drivers as well as for Ocado or Amazon. We have also been hit hard by Brexit. And TfL is making it harder and harder to get [private hire driver] license “.
Then there is the word for “y”. Griffin nearly suffocates, saying “Uber.” His main claim today is that “it was [Uber’s] predatory prices that led to drivers not earning enough money, which caused them a challenge minimum wage to get the status of a worker, and as a consequence, we now have to charge VAT on every job. ” It started four weeks ago – so far only Addison Lee and Uber have started adding VAT, but competitors need to follow, Griffin explains. As a result, the London taxi industry, which accounts for 4 billion pounds, could pay the government this year 800 million pounds.
Rising minibus prices are good news for black taxis, which is actually good news for Addison Lee. The company bought black taxi ComCab operator from Singapore’s Comfort Delray last year.
“Once the idea that Addison Lee would buy a black taxi company was outrageous,” Griffin said. “We used to be enemies. But times have changed – now we are fighting a common enemy. “
Now Griffin is focusing on “rebuilding our London business and getting decent trade behind our belt” rather than expanding. Every morning he gets up at 5.45 to run before work before, surprisingly, boarding the train and subway from his home in Essenden, Hertfordshire, to Addison Lee’s office in Paddington.
“The toxin will take too long,” he shrugs. “It’s amazing how bad the traffic in London became so soon after the pandemic.”
He gives up cars without a driver and is firmly convinced that both black taxis and Addison Lee have a bright future.
But does he want one of his three boys – between the ages of eight and 19 – to jump into his wheelchair once?
“I think living in your father’s shadow, like mine, isn’t always easy. I would probably urge my family to find their own way. “