One of the region’s most flamboyant business figures has sought to play down allegations that he unleashed a foul-mouthed tirade at a London bus driver after accusing him of damaging his Rolls-Royce.
According to witnesses on the bus, Tim Watts allegedly swore more than 50 times after he stopped his £300,000 Phantom in front of the bus in Holborn last week and confronted the driver about a large scratch on his car he claimed had been caused by the bus.
One witness to the incident – which has apparently been caught on CCTV and on several passengers’ mobile phones – said Mr Watts described the driver as a “f**king idiot” before turning on the passengers who had all got off the bus following the incident.
According to reports the incident only came to an end when the driver pressed his panic button although Mr Watts, who is chairman of the Network Group which owns recruitment firm Pertemps, said it was he who called the police after becoming “concerned” for his own safety.
Mr Watts said the incident began when his car became boxed in the outside lane and his chauffeur, whom he described as “an excellent driver and well used to the traffic in London”, was helpless as the bus came too close and scraped its wheel arch along the side of his car.
“The bus continued without stopping, however, we wanted to make the driver aware of the collision and so when the traffic cleared I asked my chauffeur to pull up in front of the bus so I could ask the driver to exchange insurance details,” he said.
“He asked me to step on board so he could hear what I was saying, which I was happy to do.
“Once on board, the driver asked his passengers over the public address whether there had been any witnesses but in doing so said that under transport rules the passengers would have to abandon the vehicle and find alternative transport.
“I was then confronted by 20 or 30 passengers holding me responsible for their inconvenience – several were very indignant claiming that the bus had not hit my car.
“Despite this, I was never rude or lost my temper and I simply tried to explain to them they were mistaken.
“When the passengers disembarked I showed the driver where the damage had occurred but he refused to co-operate and was very rude, shouting expletives at me several times.
“I became concerned for my own safety and that of my chauffeur and passenger, Network Group finance director Mr Spencer Jones, and so I instructed my driver to call the police.
“The driver eventually agreed to exchange details – which was all I had been asking him to do in the first place.”
A spokesperson for Arriva London said the bus driver had denied hitting Watts’ car but that there would be an internal investigation.
Mr Watts was recently in the headlines after he bought the so-called Wrekin Ruby for just £8,000 after it had once been valued at anything up to £11 million.
The ruby, officially known as the Gem of Tanzania, acquired its new moniker after it was discovered that the ruby had been used to buy half the shares in Wrekin Construction that subsequently went bust with the loss of hundreds of jobs and owing £40 million to creditors.
The ruby – which turned out to have a long and colourful history – was eventually auctioned by the administrators and although a number of gemologists have suggested that the stone is worth more as a curio than a precious stone, Mr Watts believes it may be worth between £200,000 and £2 million once it is broken up.
Mr Watts is also known to be fiercely protective of his reputation, having once sued a business owner who called him a “dickhead” and “money merchant” at a creditors’ meeting.
Martin Myatt made the comments, and was subsequently successfully sued for slander, at a creditors meeting for collapsed building firm Kara Construction.
Myatt, who was a creditor along with Mr Watts, accused the Pertemps boss of precipitating the construction firm’s downfall by refusing to pay a bill in full.