Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Revealed: The first picture of mysterious Dr Li, the £1.6m lover of shamed Rover boss


By Jason Lewis
Last updated at 12:49 AM on 13th September 2009

This is the first picture of the mysterious Chinese woman at the centre of the collapse of MG Rover.

Dr Qu Li was paid more than £1.6million as a consultant by the British car firm – at the same time as she was having an affair with one of its directors.

Dr Qu Li of China Ventures Ltd

Dr Qu Li was paid £1.69 million GBP for her services at MG Rover

Her company website boasts of its expertise in global acquisitions, business planning and contract negotiation.

But a damning 850-page Government report criticises the large fees paid to her and attacks MG Rover directors, who awarded themselves huge salaries while overseeing the firm’s demise in 2005.

The report also reveals how Dr Li, 45, was having an ‘intimate relationship’ with MG Rover director Nick Stephenson, 61.

The consultant was paid for just 15 months of work as MG Rover tried, unsuccessfully, to negotiate a business deal with the Chinese motor industry to save the 110-year-old car giant. In the end it went bust with the loss of 6,300 jobs.

The Government’s report goes into great detail about the affair between Dr Li and Stephenson, who earned almost £9million in wages and benefits during the five years he helped to run MG Rover.

The report attacks the so-called Phoenix Four for the way they managed MG Rover. They took over the ailing car firm in a dramatic rescue bid in 2000.

The four directors – Stephenson, John Edwards, 57, Peter Beale, 54, and John Towers, 61, paid themselves nearly £36million during the five years they ran the company.

According to the report from the Business Department, Dr Li – who lives in a sprawling farmhouse in Studley, Worcestershire – and Mr Stephenson had tried to play down their relationship.

Dr Qu Li's house at Common Farm, Studley, Worcestershire, UK

Dr Li was allegedly in a relationship with Mr Stephenson a director of Phoenix Ventures

While Dr Li claimed there was intimacy on an ‘intermittent’ basis over maybe ‘a couple of months’, Mr Stephenson said the relationship started in early 2004, but was ‘dead and buried – probably – towards the end of that year’.

Dr Li and Stephenson played a key role in the negotiations with Chinese businesses and regularly travelled to together.

Nick Stephenson

Nick Stephenson was allegedly having an ‘intimate relationship’ with Li

One witness told the department’s investigators ‘when she was in China in the early part of 2005 there was “lots of speculation” about the relationship between Dr Li and Mr Stephenson’.

The report added: ‘It is, perhaps, also noteworthy that the relationship was such that MG Rover engineers observed the closeness of the two on a trip to China in, probably, the second half of 2004.’

The Business Department questioned why Dr Li had been paid such large sums for her role.

The report says there was no attempt to find out the market rate for such services or whether anyone else could have done the job, concluding: ‘Our own view is that the sums which the group paid... were... much too high.’