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Ted Baker shares slump after ‘forced hugs’ allegations against boss

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Shares in fashion chain Ted Baker have fallen sharply after it said it would investigate claims against founder and chief executive Ray Kelvin about “forced hugs” with colleagues.

An online petition claiming to be backed by more than 200 current or former employees has called on the company to end “a culture that leaves harassment unchallenged”.

The shares were down more than 12% on Monday after the allegations – which the company said were “entirely at odds” with the values of the business and Mr Kelvin – surfaced over the weekend.

It comes ahead of a trading update by the company due on Thursday.

Ted Baker’s shares are down 40% in the year to date. In October they saw a sharp fall after it revealed its profits had been knocked by the collapse of House of Fraser – and warned of a challenging period ahead.

More than 60 people were said to have come forward with complaints in relation to the “awkward hugging policy”.

Ted Baker
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The fashion chain revealed earlier this year that its profits had been hit by the collapse of House of Fraser

The petition called for “a way of reporting harassment to an independent, external body” and claimed “HR has done nothing with the reports of harassment”.

It said: “Directors who abuse their power should be held to account.

“Harassment at Ted Baker is well documented but wilfully ignored by those in charge.

“It’s time to break the silence.”

The petition website purported to quote several unnamed current and former employees detailing their experiences.

“The CEO always wants a hug from every member of the staff,” said one.

“It’s very uncomfortable and unnecessary, a simple handshake can be okay. He has kissed the back of the ears of some of the people that work there too.”

Another said: “I’ve seen the CEO ask young female members of staff to sit on his knee, cuddle him, or let him massage their ears.”

A third added: “Forced hugs and kisses. Invitations to star in porn movies with Ray [the CEO] in the middle of the office in front of everyone.”

The company said in a statement: “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.

“While the claims made are entirely at odds with the values of our business and those of our CEO, we take them very seriously and will ensure that a thorough independent investigation is carried out.”

There was no direct comment from Mr Kelvin himself, who owns about a third of the business.

The 62-year-old developed the brand and has been chief executive since it launched in 1988.

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