Gallagher UK chief executive Simon Matson appeared as a witness yesterday on day three of the ongoing court battle with Ardonagh

Gallagher UK boss Simon Matson has taken the stand in court claiming that offensive comments made about colleagues exiting for Ardonagh were born out of fury and frustration at an “orchestrated attack” on his firm.

Matson was chief executive of Gallagher-owned broker Alesco at the time of six employee departures to join Ardonagh-owned Price Forbes and Bishopsgate.

Matson agreed with Ardonagh’s barrister David Craig QC that there was nothing wrong with a series of employees joining a rival “providing it is done legally”.

But Matson told the court a conversation with Ardonagh chief executive David Ross one week before the resignation of rising star James Brewin in June 2017 had made him suspicious of unlawful activity.

“He was looking to put together Alesco 2,” said Matson referring to his conversation with former Gallagher International boss Ross. “My sense was that something was awry, having worked for Mr Ross and known him for a number of years.”

His suspicions were expressed in an email to then Gallagher UK boss Grahame Chilton, saying he had a “horrible feeling that Ross has picked up one of our energy team”.

Within two hours of hearing of Brewin’s resignation, Matson confirmed he had ordered his work emails to be searched for evidence of wrongdoing. Nothing incriminating was found, Craig told the court.

Matson said: “Mr Brewin had access to proprietary information. He used his own laptop, which I now regret, and after my conversation with Ross I was suspicious.”

Offensive comments

Nawaf Hasan resigned three weeks after Brewin, the court heard.

Craig read to the court correspondence between Matson and various colleagues where he had used expletives and offensive language to describe Hasan, including that he was a “complicated fat Arab”.

Matson said he regretted the language used and that much of it was born out of emotional reactions meant to remain private.

“We got a really good window into what you think privately,” Craig said.

Matson denied this, and said that contrary to Craig’s claims, Hasan did feel respected by Matson. 

While accepting the firm failed to deliver on promises made to Hasan on joining the group to eventually make him a CEO, Matson said he did all he could to satisfy Hasan. He gave Hasan a board seat and responsibility for P&L, the court heard.

But, after more junior members of staff went to join Hasan in September at Ardonagh, Matson was revealed to have said “Hasan was and remains a terrible person”.

Matson said this comment was made because the “veil had been lifted” on what he described as an “orchestrated attack” around the time Matson was recovering from surgery.

“I could be talking to one person and they’d be talking to Ardonagh,” Matson told the court.

“It’s clear we were under attack and clear it had been orchestrated for maximum disruption. I felt really hurt and let down by people. I was furious. 

“It was like a dam - you use your finger to plug one hole and then the water comes out somewhere else.”


Emails read before court also revealed Matson’s aggressive language towards Brewin, including that he was “dead to him”. Matson had previously described Brewin as a good friend, and again put his language again down to the emotion of the situation.

“I knew he had personal troubles, and I even recall telling him he could move in with us, so I felt particularly let down,” Matson told the court.

“He had been identified in the succession plan as a future leader. He was on the high potential next generation leadership scheme.

“I had put a lot of work into him so it was more than irritating.”

Craig said Matson’s attitude to brokers resigning demonstrated that “when someone decides to leave Alesco they become the enemy”.

“That’s not the case,” Matson said.

Matson will answer further questioning from barristers later today as the trial continues.