Palms-on boss: A uncommon image of Ray Kelvin’s face as he’s seen at a retailer opening in Dublin, Eire
Samantha was leaving for lunch when she says she noticed her boss, Ray Kelvin, on the entrance of the garments store the place she labored, his arms outstretched as he beckoned her into an embrace.
She had been warned by colleagues that one among Kelvin’s many eccentricities was his insistence on hugging new employees, and that, ought to it occur to her, one of the best recourse was to smile and comply. However being ready didn’t make it any much less daunting.
The distinction in bodily stature between the 2 — Samantha is a diminutive 5ft 4in, Kelvin round 6ft tall — was matched by the stark distinction of their circumstances.
At 25, Samantha was a lowly gross sales assistant; Kelvin was 62, value £500 million and the much-revered chief govt of vogue empire Ted Baker. Little surprise she felt nervous. ‘As I began to tug away, he continued to hug me. I stayed there for 5 seconds after which thought: “That is too lengthy,” ’ Samantha remembers.
‘As I pulled again, he kissed me on my shoulder. I used to be carrying a sleeveless gown. We’d solely simply met. I used to be shocked and disgusted.’
Samantha is one among round 100 present or former workers who’ve reported receiving undesirable advances from Kelvin whereas working on the multi-national garments firm he based 30 years in the past.
They accuse him of harassing them with uninvited hugs and crude sexual innuendo.
CEO of Ted Baker, Ray Kelvin (left and proper) has labored within the vogue trade for greater than 40 years and is now dealing with a string of bullying and harassment allegations
It has been claimed Kelvin compelled staff to take a seat on his lap and massaged their ears; that he mentioned his intercourse life of their presence, requested workers about their very own relationships and took his shirt off in entrance of employees.
The allegations emerged initially of this week after employees used worker web site Organise to launch a petition for an impartial physique to analyze their complaints.
As days handed and a few 1,00zero Ted Baker employees backed the petition, the claims grew extra torrid.
It was stated Kelvin reportedly pinned a male worker towards an workplace wall when it transpired Kelvin was not invited to his marriage ceremony, earlier than the corporate reportedly paid the person and his fiancee to go away with out making a fuss.
Yesterday, a second senior govt was accused of unwelcome hugging and the corporate — which had defended its hugs as an innocuous ‘a part of Ted Baker’s tradition’ — introduced that Kelvin was to take a voluntary go away of absence whereas legislation agency Herbert Smith Freehills carries out an ‘impartial exterior investigation’, with instant impact.
In a press release Kelvin stated ‘the accusations of the previous week have raised some very severe and upsetting points’ and it was ‘solely proper the board ought to examine absolutely’.
Kelvin (pictured) is to take a voluntary go away of absence whereas legislation agency Herbert Smith Freehills carries out an ‘impartial exterior investigation’, with instant impact
Ted Baker — whose distinctive garments have been worn by celebrities together with the Duchess of Cambridge, Amal Clooney and Holly Willoughby — has seen shares plummet to a five-year low. In a press release yesterday, Kelvin stated: ‘Ted Baker has been my life and soul for 30 years. I like this firm and care deeply for all my colleagues.’
Mockingly, Kelvin, a twice-married and fiercely non-public father of three, has lengthy claimed to be staunchly protecting of his staff’ rights, and a person to whom the bullying famend amongst lots of his friends within the vogue trade is anathema.
Positing himself because the polar reverse of audacious Arcadia boss Sir Philip Inexperienced, himself struggling to get well from allegations of misogyny and abuse, Kelvin shuns the limelight, saying flaunting wealth is ‘vulgar’ and ‘the world has made an excessive amount of of enterprise folks changing into celebrities’.
Certainly, his profile is so low that till this week, few exterior the style trade would have heard of him.
As an alternative of advocating a inflexible hierarchy, his managerial strategy appears to render skilled boundaries all however out of date.
His 80,00zero sq ft North London HQ, a former Put up Workplace sorting workplace generally known as the ‘Ugly Brown Constructing’, the place Ted Baker has been primarily based since 2000, has hosted stress massages for workers.
An indication subsequent to Kelvin’s desk in his open plan workplace says ‘Hugs Right here’.
‘I make it my enterprise to get to know everybody. I give all of them nicknames so I bear in mind folks’s names,’ Kelvin instructed Vogue in 2013. ‘I need to give them an actual profession — a “teducation” as we name it. It’s all only one large hug.’
That is the weird second Ray Kelvin, 63, embroiled in ‘compelled hugging’ employees harassment scandal kisses a footballer
However within the put up #MeToo period, with company tradition below ever extra piercing a highlight, this quirky strategy all of a sudden appears rife for abuse. His makes an attempt to look a pleasant hero at the moment are seen by many as a cynical ploy to take advantage of workers’ vulnerability.
Chatting with each his allies and critics this week, the Mail found a posh character, whose actions seem pushed as a lot by insecurity as vanity and want.
The son of a manufacturing facility employee, Kelvin, who has two grownup sons from his first marriage and a five-year-old daughter with present spouse Clare, 46, was introduced up in North London, the place his dad and mom taught him ‘you needed to work exhausting for something you needed’.
From the day he opened his first Ted Baker retailer in Glasgow in 1988, promoting fashionably garish males’s shirts, the moniker Ted Baker supplied a fictional frontman for Kelvin to cover behind. ‘I didn’t need to use my actual title,’ he stated. ‘I assumed I’d be a failure. I may have gone bankrupt, then my title would have all the time been related to a failed firm.’
Ted was the suave alter ego the self-effacing Kelvin wished he might be. In distinction, Kelvin was ‘camera-shy’ and described himself as ‘ugly’ — a cause given for his weird behavior of partially obscuring his face behind inanimate objects corresponding to sofas, towels and books on the uncommon events he agreed to be photographed.
Regardless of — or, certainly, due to — his unconventional strategy to enterprise, his firm grew, increasing into womenswear, sneakers and equipment. And when, in 1997 Ted Baker — by then value £56 million — went public, Kelvin’s manner dramatically modified.
Having described himself as an aggressive ‘monster’ within the early years, success introduced a administration fashion as irreverent as his £279 sparkly jumpsuits.
Mr Kelvin (pictured above) has been accused of creating sexual innuendos. In images he’s identified for masking his face
A eager angler, Kelvin was apparently as soon as intent on incorporating a fishing store promoting sort out within the reception of his HQ, till a senior accomplice talked him out of it. As an alternative, a large board exterior the doorway with an image of a lobster on it’s accompanied by the phrases ‘be a part of the fold.’
Kelvin employed his mom, Trudie, who died in 2010, to promote garments whereas carrying a badge saying ‘Ted’s Mum; I taught him easy methods to tie his shoelaces’.
Workers lateness was penalised with press-ups and line-dancing befell within the canteen. ‘It was like working for a cult,’ says Lucy, a former worker primarily based within the London HQ for 3 years, talking on situation of anonymity.
He was significantly happy with his ‘hug tradition’. ‘I hug my colleagues day by day,’ he instructed Vogue in 2013. ‘I hug the shop employees, everybody.’
Kelvin has claimed he embraces folks each as a result of persistent psoriatic arthritis makes shaking arms ‘painful’ and since hugging ‘breaks obstacles’.
Others imagine the choice is extra contrived; a acutely aware method of merging his mannerisms to go well with the unorthodox nature of his clothes model. ‘
‘He works a bit too exhausting making an attempt to be completely different,’ an in depth and long-standing acquaintance of Kelvin’s instructed me. ‘Regardless of his wealth and success, I believe he’s insecure.’
Stocky and grey-haired, Kelvin reportedly believed himself fortunate to have attracted the eye of his lovely second spouse Clare, a blonde greater than 15 years his junior, and admits having misplaced weight on her instruction earlier than their 2012 marriage ceremony.
Clare — who lives with Kelvin and their five-year-old daughter in a three-storey house in Hampstead, North London, with a detachable roof and views over St Paul’s Cathedral, works within the London HQ with Kelvin, a truth one other supply near him insists factors to his innocence.
‘She’s not going to face by and watch him hug folks inappropriately,’ the supply stated. ‘It doesn’t occur. He doesn’t hug in a sexual method.
‘It’s garbage to say he massages folks’s ears. He mentors employees. He needs to know concerning the folks he works with so he can assist them attain their potential. They’re like a household to him.
‘Ray has been coming into work day by day distraught. Everybody may be very upset. Individuals have been crying.
‘We don’t know who has [started the petition]. They’ve been in a position to keep fully nameless. I imagine most people behind this don’t even work for Ted Baker any extra.’
Greater than 100 employees have submitted nameless tales of harassment on Organise, the marketing campaign web site the place the petition started
Tearfully, one worker harassed Kelvin’s loyalty to his staff: ‘One lady has labored right here since she was 16 and is now a director. The cleaner has been right here for 30 years. Yearly, with out fail, she wins Worker of the Yr.
‘One man had most cancers and Ray helped together with his remedy and held him in his hospital mattress. Ray is essentially the most honourable man.’
These sentiments had been echoed by Kelvin’s first spouse, Georgia Slowe, 53, who lives 5 minutes away from him. A former actress in Emmerdale, she married Kelvin in 1993 and remained pals after divorcing him in 2000.
‘I believe what’s taking place is ridiculous,’ she says. Describing Kelvin because the ‘loveliest man’ she provides: ‘I believe it’s great to have a family-like environment at work. He’s an excellent businessman.’
Maybe so, however Kelvin — awarded a CBE for his work in vogue in 2011 — is inappropriately puerile and his humour peppered with sexual overtones. For instance, he insists that even these workers in a relationship once they joined Ted Baker should have an ‘workplace boyfriend’ or ‘workplace girlfriend’.
Whereas he clearly enjoys flirting, he doesn’t restrict his consideration to 1 lady — or man. ‘He’s successfully having an affair with everyone, day by day,’ says one acquaintance. ‘He’s simply as touchy-feely with males. He’s childlike and craves consideration and approval.
‘I believe he’s charmingly bizarre relatively than sinister and creepy. However as Ray has acquired older, he has change into barely extra eccentric and overpassed the impact his actions have on others. He forgets he’s sufficiently old to be his workers’ father.’
Each Samantha and Lucy inform me the senior cohort of workers surrounding Kelvin appeared glad sufficient hugging their boss.
‘It was well-known that these within the larger ranges had been completely advantageous with it,’ says Lucy, including: ‘I don’t know in the event that they went together with it as a result of they had been being paid some huge cash and hugging was a component and parcel of being there.’
It appears to have been primarily Kelvin’s youthful workers, higher versed in political correctness and office rights than older generations, who objected sufficient to instigate the current petition. ‘I can’t recall any gross sales associates — who had been aged between 19 and 27 — who needed to hug him,’ says Samantha. She was warned by colleagues when she began as a gross sales assistant this yr that, ought to she meet Kelvin, he would hug her for ‘method too lengthy’.
She provides: ‘I used to be nervous, however the managers made it appear there was no selection; that it was a giant deal to fulfill the CEO of your organization. I didn’t need to get into hassle.’
Earlier than her personal encounter, she had already seen Kelvin kiss a male colleague on the brow. ‘He instructed me afterwards he’d by no means felt so violated. I instructed him to go to human sources, however he stated nothing can be completed — that’s simply Kelvin’s method of claiming howdy.’
Workers on the excessive avenue giants additionally accused Kelvin of creating them sit on his knee and taking his shirt off
When it occurred to Samantha weeks later (with a kiss on the shoulder) she, too, stored quiet. ‘I didn’t suppose HR would hear,’ she says. ‘I felt upset and embarrassed and didn’t inform anybody.’ As an alternative, she made certain she was out of Kelvin’s neighborhood subsequent time he visited the shop, and left his firm shortly afterwards.
Rumours of unhappiness have swirled round for a while, however have, till now, been contained.
When Rebecca Waller-Davies, a journalist from commerce publication Retail Week, advised to Kelvin that ladies had been coerced into sitting on his knee this summer time, he instructed her she was on ‘very harmful floor’ earlier than pulling her to a hug, kissing her cheek and claiming, ‘I’m not apologising for this’ — phrases that, tellingly, remained unpublished till this week.
As even an in depth acquaintance concedes: ‘I can think about him saying that. He’s very delicate to criticism and I do know this episode could have damage him.’
Whether or not by means of loyalty or concern, no employees at any of the three Ted Baker shops the Mail visited this week would touch upon their boss’s state of affairs. When the Mail visited the London HQ to ask to talk to Kelvin, three members of employees emerged to inform our reporter he was not out there.
After repeated makes an attempt to contact Kelvin for remark, a press release from Ted Baker stated the corporate would ‘rigorously contemplate the content material and proposals’ of the impartial report.
‘We’ve all the time positioned nice significance on our tradition. It’s critically necessary to us that each member of our employees feels valued and revered at work. We don’t imagine these experiences are reflective of the organisation we’ve all labored exhausting to develop during the last 30 years.’
Kelvin, for his half, stated in a press release yesterday: ‘Ted Baker means every little thing to me and I can’t bear to see it harmed in any method.’
Whether or not he can climate this storm — and whether or not he deserves to — is a matter of opinion.
Further reporting: STEPHANIE CONDRON