Fashion trade: Ted Baker shares plunge on CEO 'hugs' investigation

Ray Kelvin with his wife Clare

United Kingdom fashion retailer Ted Baker has appointed an independent committee of non-executive directors to investigate workplace harassment claims that current chief executive and founder Ray Kelvin expected staff to hug him and sit on his lap when visiting stores.

"Hugs have become part of Ted Baker's culture, but are absolutely not insisted upon", it added.

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. Accordingly, they and the board take these concerns very seriously and the board has directed a thorough and urgent independent external investigation is carried out into these matters".

Kelvin, 63, who founded the high-end British retailer in 1988, has been accused in the petition of asking "young female members of staff to sit on his knee, cuddle him, or let him massage their ears".

The petition is hosted using the platform Organise. It also alleges that there are 50 recorded incidents of harassment at the firm.

In response to the shoving allegation, the company said: "We do not believe these reports are reflective of the organisation we have all worked hard to develop over the last 30 years".

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"Trading conditions have been subdued, but Ted's positioning as a global lifestyle brand leaves it far better placed than most".

Founder and CEO of Ted Baker, Ray Kelvin, who notoriously obscures his face as he poses for photos.

In May, Tatler estimated Kelvin's net worth at more than $900million.

The comments from Ted Baker followed a report in the UK's "Sunday Times" on the petition. A new addition, Ted Baker Woman, was launched in 1995.

The company said that it has "very clear and robust HR policies in place to provide all employees with a wide range of reporting options for any issues that they might encounter, including a completely confidential and anonymous, 24/7 helpline".

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