CLEVELAND Bridge claims Multiplex drew up a strategy ? the 'Armageddon Plan' ? to put the steel firm out of business. The motive was, it alleges, to save money on spiralling steel work costs, which had increased by half to over £90 million by May 2004.
Multiplex has dismissed the accusation and argues that 'Armageddon' was a name it gave to its fears that CBUK would leave the job once it had lifted the arch into place.
The court heard CBUK QC Hugh Tomlinson repeatedly claim that Multiplex initiated the plan in the hope that CBUK would 'fall over'.
He added that Multiplex had marked a precise date for when Armageddon ? or 'A day' ? would be implemented: 16 July 2004. Mr Tomlinson said the plan was not a response to worries that CBUK would walk off site but one 'laying out a sequence of events that were going to take place' once the arch had been lifted.
The court heard details of a complaint made by CBUK managing director Brian Rogan to Multiplex project director Ashley Muldoon at the beginning of April 2004 in which he told Mr Muldoon that one of his employees had overheard a Multiplex employee say: 'Don't worry, once the arch is up those fuckers are off the job.' Mr Tomlinson said Multiplex knew CBUK was financially weak and told Mr Muldoon: 'Your intention was to hit CBUK with a series of claims and your hope and your expectation was that they would fall over.' He said Multiplex wanted to bring the steel costs down to £75 million and added: 'You realised the only way to keep the steel down to £75 million was to remove CBUK from site. Either they would fall over commercially and concede the money you wanted or they would go into insolvency.' But Mr Muldoon said it did not want a bankrupt steel contractor on its hands. He said: 'That would have had a catastrophic effect on the programme which, when CBUK did walk off in August, took us a long time to recover.
He added: 'The Armageddon plan was planning for a worst-case scenario, being if CBUK walked away from the job.' And he said that the phrase 'fall over' meant reaching agreement over steel costs: 'It was nothing to do with making them bankrupt.' Mr Muldoon also dismissed Mr Tomlinson's suggestion that plans to write letters to CBUK directors reminding them of their responsibilities should the firm go into insolvency were an attempt to 'terrify' them.
Mr Muldoon, who said CBUK directors had already warned him about the firm's financial health, said: 'We had to protect our interests.'