This story , taken from the Daily Telegraph, does little for the reputation of the current owners of Stagecoach.
Robin Gloag, who died in a road accident on December 5 aged 64, co-founded the Stagecoach transport empire in the early 1980s with his then wife Ann, a former nurse, and her younger brother Brian Souter, but missed out on becoming one of Scotland’s richest men when he fell out with his fellow directors; as his marriage foundered he set up a rival enterprise and launched a fares war in head-to-head competition with Stagecoach.
Inevitably it ended in tears. When Gloag launched his firm, Highwayman, with a service between Perth and Errol, a 15-minute journey, his wife launched a service on the same route – timetabled to arrive a minute or two earlier.
When he cut his fares by 10p, she slashed hers by 50p, forcing him to follow suit. She halved the fares, then stopped charging altogether; Highwayman went bust and Stagecoach snapped up most of the business, leaving Gloag with a residual coach hire company which now runs 13 coaches.
The battle earned Ann Gloag a reputation for ruthlessness, and the story of the merciless aggression with which she saw off her former husband became a business legend. “It makes me sound awful,” she once admitted, “but I can’t deny it was the truth.” Robin Gloag, though, never really recovered from the humiliation.
Robin Nicol Gloag was born in 1943 and, after leaving school, worked as a petrol station manager. He met the young Ann Souter, a nurse at Bridge of Earn Hospital, Perth, when he came in to be treated for a torn cartilage. They married in 1965 and had a son and a daughter.
Finding it hard to make ends meet, in 1976 they founded a caravan hire business as a sideline. The expansion into buses came by accident when they spent £650 on a second-hand bus, intending to drive it to China.
The plan failed because of visa problems, but when a local construction firm asked if it could hire the vehicle to take workers to a building site, they found they had a profitable business. Eventually the couple brought Ann’s brother Brian, a chartered accountant, into the company.
The turning point came in 1980, when they invested their savings and the £12,000 redundancy money of the Souters’ father, himself a bus driver, in two old buses.
On October 11 1980, two days after a new transport act came into effect, allowing anyone to run bus services over distances of more than 30 miles, the first of the family’s “Gloagtrotter” services set off from Dundee to London – at almost half the price of its competitors.
Robin was the driver and bus maintenance man, while Ann and her mother made sandwiches and tea and Brian Souter took the bookings.
The business was blessed from the beginning – its launch coincided with a national rail strike. Their service destroyed the competition, though the real money came five years later when a further round of bus deregulation allowed the company (by now renamed Stagecoach) to buy up small firms all over Britain.
By this time Robin and Ann had parted company.
Robin Gloag was by all accounts happier under a coach repairing it than he was running a company, and his wife and her brother soon decided that he would have to go.
“The two of them would act as though I didn’t even exist,” Robin Gloag recalled. “They would talk across the room as though I wasn’t there. I felt like saying ‘Hello, Hello, I’m in the room as well’… between them they decided I was surplus to requirements.”
In 1983 brother and sister summoned Robin to a meeting and told him they wanted to buy him out; Ann Gloag always insisted it had been a business decision. He was paid off with £8,000 redundancy and two buses. The couple subsequently divorced.
While his wife became Scotland’s richest woman, Robin Gloag eked a living running a coach hire service from a garage at his home village of Errol, Perthshire.
He lost contact with his family and when, in 1999, his 28-year-old son Jonathan was found to have hanged himself in a Perthshire wood, he heard about it from the police, not his family.
In recent years Robin Gloag had had a number of run-ins with the traffic commissioners over safety standards. Last year he had two vehicles suspended from his fleet after faults, including defective brakes, were found. Earlier this year two minibuses were damaged in a fire at his depot.
Relations with his former wife remained hostile. Of the oft-repeated saga of Stagecoach’s turbulent early years he commented: “I wish the story would die, and them with it” – though he took a little comfort from the fact that he still owned one Stagecoach share: “They tried to get me to sign it away, but it’s still in my name… They didn’t push hard enough and I didn’t fall off a cliff.”
Robin Gloag is survived by his second wife, Shirley, and by his daughter with Ann Gloag.