BUSINESSMAN Andrew Tinkler has spelled out why he believes he is the right man to save the iconic but now crisis-stricken Cumbrian haulier Eddie Stobart.

As the future of the debt-ridden logistics firm hangs in the balance, the outspoken multi-millionaire has found himself on the opposing side to his childhood friend and former colleague William Stobart, now the key figure in a rival rescue bid.

It has been proposed by the company’s long-term backer DBAY. William, the fourth child of the firm’s founder, would become chief executive if the plan goes ahead.

DBAY wants to pump £55m into Eddie Stobart in the form of a high-interest loan.

But Mr Tinkler says that heaping yet more debt on to the firm - plunged into crisis after a £200m black hole was found in its finances - would be a disaster.

His alternative plan involves raising £55m from new and existing shareholders, boosted by £20m from him and his associates.

In an exclusive interview with The Cumberland News, the entrepreneur insisted that there is no animosity between himself and William Stobart over the rival bids.

“William has gone along with DBAY and is supporting them,” said Mr Tinkler.

“We are great friends but this is business.

“He wants to go down his route, and I want to go down mine.”

Asked why his plan - put through a firm he controls called TVFB - is the right one, Mr Tinkler said: “Because my plan is not about building the business up with big, high-interest debts.

“It’s about putting equity in from shareholders to reduce that debt so that it survives and thrives.

“There would also be £20m from myself and associates.”

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Mr Tinkler, a former Stobart Group chief executive, who ran Eddie Stobart Logistics until 2014, would not be drawn on how much money he personally would contribute, though one source suggested it was £10m.

If it succeeds, he would be the firm’s new executive chairman. “I’d work alongside the existing management, supporting them and using my knowledge of the business.”

The banks which will ultimately decide the firm’s future have allowed Eddie Stobart Logistics to continue trading but insiders fear they could pull the plug at any moment.

Sources say the DBAY plan is supported by the banks involved. But Mr Tinkler says his proposal is being backed by shareholders and Stobart Group, which is still a minority shareholder.

“Shareholders do take my offer seriously, and even Stobart Group has supported me on this transaction,” said Mr Tinkler. “They see what I am trying to do is preserve value for shareholders.

“To me mind, the company has too much debt.

“It’s a strong business and a strong brand. We turned it round in 2004, and we can do it again. But it needs to be properly financed and properly managed. It’s not about me getting back in control. It’s about doing what’s right for the shareholders. I wouldn’t be doing it if I didn’t think I could succeed.”

The firm is one of Cumbria’s best known exports, achieving what few businesses ever do - cult status, complete with a fan club, branding, and livery recognised across the globe.

The two rival bids will be considered by shareholders on December 6. A simple majority will decide which plan is adopted, though the future of the firm will in the final analysis be decided by the banks which have lent to it.

Meanwhile, new shares can be issued only when existing shares resume trading.

They have been suspended since the summer, when the firm’s chief executive stepped down. Eddie Stobart Logistics’ woes were blamed on years of poor accounting practices. Sources say that any proposal will need the approval of the firm’s lenders.

Nobody at either DBAY or Stobart Group was prepared to comment.