01 Feb'18

Companies quick to distance themselves from President Club sexual harassment allegations

On January 23rd, the Financial Times published an inside report about the charity fundraiser for the President Club.


Two FT reporters worked undercover as hostesses. They reported that ‘hostesses were groped, sexually harassed and propositioned’.


Key information about the event:


  • Male only
  • Black tie evening
  • Took place at the Dorchester Hotel
  • Raising money for Great Ormond Street Hospital. This year’s event raised £2 million
  • Has been a social event for 33 years
  • 2018’s event was attended by 360 people from the business, political, financial and entertainment industry
  • Hired 130 hostesses


Specific accounts of sexual harassment include; ‘men repeatedly putting hands up their skirt’ and an ‘attendee had exposed his penis to her during the event’.


One male attendee approached a hostess saying ‘” You look far too sober”’, proceeded to fill her glass with champagne and then stated ‘”I want you to down that glass, rip off your knickers and dance on that table”’. The full report provides information on the recruitment process of the hostesses, quotes from the girls themselves and further details about the inappropriate behaviour that occurred at the event – read the report here.


At this year’s event companies that sponsored tables include: WPP, CMC Markets and Frogmore. Well known individuals that were present were: Philip Green (from the Arcadia Group), Peter Jones (Dragon Den star), Tim Steiner (Ocado CEO), Makram Azar (Head of Barclays’ investment) and David Walliams (the comedian who hosted the evening).


Since the FT’s scoop there has been significant backlash for individuals and company brands.


The Guardian reported that the property company Residential Land have lost a major financial investor because the owner of the property company, Bruce Ritchie, was a former co-chair member of the President Club.


Government figures that attended the charity event have faced significant pressure. Jonathan Mendelsohn (the Labour peer) has been ‘effectively sacked’. As quoted by The Guardian, a Labour spokesman stated that although Mendelsohn ‘did not witness any of the appalling incidents described in reports’, he ‘has stepped down’.


Nadhim Zahawi, Children and Families Minister, also attended the event.  Yet it is understood that Zahawi ‘left early from that particular event’.


Theresa May has openly expressed her disapproval in her statement ‘when I read the report of that event that took place, frankly, I was appalled’. May added ‘I thought that sort of approach to women, that objectification of women, was something that we were leaving behind.’


As citied before, WPP sponsored a table. Chief Executive, Sir Martin Sorrell was not present, but has attended in the past. Campaign Live refers to Sorrell’s interview with Radio 4 where he described the allegations as ‘highly regrettable’. Sorrell added that WPP take ‘these reports very seriously and, while we continue to support relevant charities, in light of the allegations we are ending our association with the event.’ Sorrell’s statement demonstrates his attempt at distancing his company from the sexual harassment that occurred at the event.


Even the Great Ormond Street hospital have distanced themselves from the President Club so much so the hospital announced, ‘All monies raised in our name go to support vital work. However, due to the wholly unacceptable nature of the event we are returning previous donations’.



The sexual harassment that occurred at the Presidents Club has sparked so much controversy that the club has now shut down. The Telegraph described the club’s reputation having become ‘so toxic’ prompting their quick announcement that they are shutting down.


Now that this type of behaviour is being reported on and no longer accepted, companies are quick to distance themselves from any sexual assault allegations that they may be associated with. After the Presidents Club sexual allegations, I am sure companies and well-established figures will gain a better understanding of an event before they RSPV.