Ted Baker founder and chief executive Ray Kelvin has taken a leave of absence after he became embroiled in harassment allegations last week.
Earlier this month a petition, signed by over 1000 staff members, accused Kelvin of making staff “uncomfortable” by allegedly enforcing a “hugging culture” on colleagues, as well as asking young female staff to “sit on his knee, cuddle him, or let him massage their ears”.
Further allegations emerged that Kelvin pushed an executive up against the wall of a glass meeting room in 2016 according to three anonymous witnesses, and late last week Ted Baker removed an area allegedly dubbed the “Hug Zone” in its head office – which was identified by a sign on the floor next to Kelvin’s desk.
The fashion retailer sought to quell the growing PR crisis by announcing an “independent internal investigation” into the accusations would be conducted by Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF).
It is understood that Herbert Smith would report to a committee of non-executive directors chaired by Sharon Baylay.
In response to the growing controversy, Kelvin announced he would take a leave of absence from the company.
“The accusations of the past week have raised some very serious and upsetting issues,” he said in a statement.
“It is only right that the Board and HSF should investigate fully.
“Ted Baker has been my life and soul for 30 years. I love this company and I care deeply for all my colleagues.
“It’s for that reason that I have decided to take a temporary leave of absence.
“Ted Baker means everything to me and I can’t bear to see it harmed in any way.”
Since the allegations against Kelvin broke, Ted Baker has seen its share prices dive to a five-year low.