Who is Ted Baker founder Ray Kelvin and what are the inappropriate hug claims?

TED Baker founder Ray Kelvin has been hit by claims of “forced hugging” by staff who say it is “very uncomfortable and unnecessary”.

The claims of inappropriate behaviour prompted a sharp fall in the company's share price. Here's what you need to know.

Who is Ray Kelvin?

Ray Kelvin, now 62, is the founder and chief executive of the Ted Baker fashion brand.

He grew up in Edmonton, north London, in a Jewish family and from the age of 11 worked in his uncle's menswear shop.

He started the Ted Baker business in 1988 with a shop selling men's shirts in Glasgow.

Further shops followed in Manchester, Nottingham and London.

Today the company has 490 shops and concession worldwide with revenue of £591million in the year ending January 2018.

The firm is listed on the London stock exchange and is valued at around £780million, although its share price plunged 15 per cent after reports of a petition against the boss.

Twice-wed dad of two Ray Kelvin – who is famously camera shy – was awarded a CBE in 2011 for services to the fashion industry.

His first wife was Emmerdale actress Georgia Slowe, the mother of his two sons.

What are the hugging allegations?

Scores of current and former staff are understood to have gone to employee campaigning platform Organise with complaints about Kelvin's alleged behaviour, reports The Guardian

In addition, more than 1,800 people have signed an online petition urging broader change in the fashion group.

Their petition calls upon Ted Baker’s board of directors to scrap the alleged “forced hugs and end harassment.

It demands: “Put an end to the awkward ‘hugging’ policy. It’s inappropriate and is part of a culture that allows harassment to go unchallenged.

“Please set up a way of reporting harassment to an independent, external body – HR has done nothing with the reports of harassment. It’s time to break the silence.”

The online platform carries a series of allegations, including from a former Ted Baker employee who claimed: “The CEO always wants a hug from every member of the staff. It’s very uncomfortable and unnecessary, a simple handshake can be OK.”

The petition on Organise also shows an allegation from a Ted Baker employee that states: “I’ve seen the CEO ask young female members of staff to sit on his knee, cuddle him or let him massage their ears.”

Those behind the petition claim it’s important changes are made because “there’s no official way to address the issue of harassment" in Ted Baker.

It adds: “There are a lot of really positive things about working at Ted Baker but they’re often overshadowed by this underlying awkwardness about the ‘hugging’ and inappropriate comments.”

Ted Baker said it would ensure an independent investigation was conducted.

In a statement the firm added: “While the claims made are entirely at odds with the values of our business and those of our CEO, we take them very seriously.

“Ray greets many people he meets with a hug – be it a shareholder, investor, supplier, partner, customer or colleague.

“Hugs have become part of Ted Baker’s culture, but are absolutely not insisted upon.”

The company said it has now asked law firm Herbert Smith Freehills to carry out and investigation into the allegations.

Herbert Smith will report to a committee of the company's non-executive directors which will be chaired by Sharon Baylay.

In an interview with Vogue in 2013, Kelvin said: “I hug my colleagues every day. I hug the store staff, everyone.

“They’re all ambassadors for the brand. I make it my business to get to know everyone – I give them all nicknames, so I remember people’s names.

“I want to give them a real career – a teducation as I call it. It’s all just one big hug.”

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Has Ray Kelvin resigned?

Kelvin was forced to take a leave of absence in December last year amid claims that he enforced a "hugging" culture at the company.

But Ted Baker said on Monday that he agreed to resign as chief executive and director of the retail chain that was founded in Glasgow in 1988.

Executive chairman David Bernstein said: "Ray Kelvin founded the business 32 years ago and has, together with the fantastic team around him, been the driving force behind it becoming the global brand it is today.

"As founder and CEO, we are grateful for his tireless energy and vision. However, in light of the allegations made against him, Ray has decided that it is in the best interests of the company for him to resign so that the business can move forward under new leadership."

Mr Kelvin himself said that stepping away is the "right thing to do".

He said: "The past few months have been deeply distressing and I'll now be taking time privately with my family to consider what my next adventure will be. Bye for now, Ray."

An internal independent committee has been in the process of investigating the allegations alongside law firm Herbert Smith Freehills.

The probe will continue, with the primary focus now on Ted Baker's policies, procedures and handling of complaints.

Acting chief executive Lindsay Page has agreed to continue in the role, with Mr Bernstein providing additional support in an executive capacity until no later than November 30 2020, by which time a successor will be appointed.

Mr Bernstein added: "As a board of directors, we are committed to ensuring that all employees feel respected and valued. We are determined to learn lessons from what has happened and from what our employees have told us and to ensure that, while the many positive and unique aspects of Ted's culture are maintained, appropriate changes are made."

"Sharon Baylay has agreed to act as the designated non-executive director for engagement with the Ted workforce. Led by Lindsay, we are confident that the strong and experienced team we have in place will build the Ted culture and move the business forward."

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