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Stagecoach tycoon took us for a big ride in the Big Apple; Souter sued by US tourists.

Byline: Russell Findlay

Transport tycoon Sir Brian Souter faces a lawsuit by two US tourists over his alleged monopoly of NewYork sightseeing buses.

The Perth-based boss of Stagecoach is fighting a court battle brought by New York's Attorney General Eric Schneiderma, 56.

Schneiderman alleges the deal the 58-year-old struck to create Twin America tour bus firm by merging his Coach USA with biggest rival City Sights is unfair.

Last week, New York lawyer Fred Isquith lodged a class action writ against the firm.

His clients are brothers Matthew and Jeremia Mercado, from Michigan, who claim they were forced to pay too much for their December bus trip.

If Souter loses the case, it could see him being sued by other former customers.

Isquith said: "The plaintiffs Matthew Mercado and Jeremiah Mercado are customers of Twin America who claim they paid too much. They came to us after reading about the case. Some people make a stand as a matter of principle. It's for a token sum, a handful of dollars."

Schneiderman has accused Twin America - which has 90 per cent of the city's hop-on, hop-off trade - of operating an "illegal venture" causing higher prices and less competition.

Souter allegedly ordered his Coach USA president Dale Moser to stand for hours in New York streets counting rival City Sights buses. And "fierce head-to-head" competition with City Sights led to a drop in revenue for Souter's firm.

The court papers state: "Stagecoach CEO Brian Souter had grown tired of the relentless competition within City Sights, with the two firms matching each other's move.

"Souter no longer wanted to have City Sights as an 'enemy' and sought to join forces."

Souter went to New York in June 2008 to meet City Sights boss Mark Marmiurstein.

That led to the merging of the two rivals to create PS62million operation Twin America which operates two brands - City Sights and Gray Line.

When he launched his action last December, Schneiderman said: "The iconic double-decker Gray Line and City Sights buses are seen all over New York City but few people know they are a monopoly that has led to higher prices. Visitors to New York deserve better."

In a separate twist last month, the Surface Transportation Board ruled that Twin America could be broken up.

A spokesman for the tycoon's Twin America: "We fundamentally disagree with the allegations made and intend to robustly defend our position."



LAWSUIT After merger of NY sightseeing buses with Souter's firm
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Apr 7, 2013
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