So what has the VERY touchy-feely King of the High Street got to hide?

Cud­dling and kiss­ing his staff. Sex­ual in­nu­en­dos. As a string of lurid al­le­ga­tions force the boss of Ted Baker to stand down . . .

Daily Mail - - Count­down To Brexit D-day - by An­to­nia Hoyle

SAMAN­THA was leav­ing for lunch when she says she saw her boss, Ray Kelvin, at the en­trance of the clothes shop where she worked, his arms out­stretched as he beck­oned her into an em­brace.

She had been warned by col­leagues that one of Kelvin’s many ec­cen­tric­i­ties was his in­sis­tence on hug­ging new staff, and that, should it hap­pen to her, the best re­course was to smile and com­ply. But be­ing pre­pared didn’t make it any less daunt­ing.

The dif­fer­ence in phys­i­cal stature be­tween the two — Saman­tha is a diminu­tive 5ft 4in, Kelvin around 6ft tall — was matched by the stark con­trast in their cir­cum­stances.

At 25, Saman­tha was a lowly sales as­sis­tant; Kelvin was 62, worth £500 mil­lion and the much-revered chief ex­ec­u­tive of fash­ion em­pire Ted Baker. Lit­tle won­der she felt ner­vous. ‘As I started to pull away, he con­tin­ued to hug me. I stayed there for five sec­onds and then thought: “This is too long,” ’ Saman­tha re­calls.

‘As I pulled back, he kissed me on my shoul­der. I was wear­ing a sleeve­less dress. We’d only just met. I was shocked and dis­gusted.’

Saman­tha is one of around 100 cur­rent or for­mer em­ploy­ees who’ve re­ported re­ceiv­ing un­wanted ad­vances from Kelvin while work­ing at the multi-na­tional clothes com­pany he founded 30 years ago.

They ac­cuse him of ha­rass­ing them with un­in­vited hugs and crude sex­ual in­nu­endo.

It has been claimed Kelvin forced work­ers to sit on his lap and mas­saged their ears; that he dis­cussed his sex life in their pres­ence, asked em­ploy­ees about their own re­la­tion­ships and took his shirt off in front of staff.

The al­le­ga­tions emerged at the start of this week af­ter staff used em­ployee web­site Or­gan­ise to launch a pe­ti­tion for an in­de­pen­dent body to in­ves­ti­gate their com­plaints.

As days passed and some 1,000 Ted Baker staff backed the pe­ti­tion, the claims grew more tor­rid.

It was said Kelvin re­port­edly pinned a male em­ployee against an of­fice wall when it tran­spired Kelvin was not in­vited to his wed­ding, be­fore the com­pany re­port­edly paid the man and his fi­ancee to leave with­out mak­ing a fuss.

YES­TER­DAY, a se­cond se­nior ex­ec­u­tive was ac­cused of un­wel­come hug­ging and the com­pany — which had de­fended its hugs as an in­nocu­ous ‘part of Ted Baker’s cul­ture’ — an­nounced that Kelvin was to take a vol­un­tary leave of ab­sence while law firm Her­bert Smith Free­hills car­ries out an ‘ in­de­pen­dent ex­ter­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion’, with im­me­di­ate ef­fect.

In a state­ment Kelvin said ‘the ac­cu­sa­tions of the past week have raised some very se­ri­ous and up­set­ting is­sues’ and it was ‘only right the board should in­ves­ti­gate fully’.

Ted Baker — whose dis­tinc­tive clothes have been worn by celebri­ties in­clud­ing the Duchess of Cam­bridge, Amal Clooney and Holly Wil­loughby — has seen shares plum­met to a five-year low. In a state­ment yes­ter­day, Kelvin said: ‘Ted Baker has been my life and soul for 30 years. I love this com­pany and care deeply for all my col­leagues.’

Iron­i­cally, Kelvin, a twice­mar­ried and fiercely pri­vate fa­ther of three, has long claimed to be staunchly pro­tec­tive of his work­ers’ rights, and a man to whom the bul­ly­ing renowned among many of his peers in the fash­ion in­dus­try is anath­ema.

Posit­ing him­self as the po­lar op­po­site of au­da­cious Ar­ca­dia boss Sir Philip Green, him­self strug­gling to re­cover from al­le­ga­tions of misog­yny and abuse, Kelvin shuns the lime­light, say­ing flaunt­ing wealth is ‘vul­gar’ and ‘the world has made too much of busi­ness peo­ple be­com­ing celebri­ties’.

In­deed, his pro­file is so low that un­til this week, few out­side the fash­ion in­dus­try would have heard of him.

In­stead of ad­vo­cat­ing a rigid hierarchy, his man­age­rial ap­proach seems to ren­der pro­fes­sional bound­aries all but ob­so­lete.

His 80,000 sq ft North Lon­don HQ, a for­mer Post Of­fice sort­ing of­fice known as the ‘Ugly Brown Build­ing’, where Ted Baker has been based since 2000, has hosted stress mas­sages for em­ploy­ees.

A sign next to Kelvin’s desk in his open plan of­fice says ‘Hugs Here’.

‘I make it my busi­ness to get to know ev­ery­one. I give them all nick­names so I re­mem­ber peo­ple’s names,’ Kelvin told Vogue in 2013. ‘I want to give them a real ca­reer — a “ted­u­ca­tion” as we call it. It’s all just one big hug.’

But in the post #MeToo era, with cor­po­rate cul­ture un­der ever more pierc­ing a spot­light, this quirky ap­proach sud­denly seems rife for abuse. His at­tempts to ap­pear a friendly hero are now viewed by many as a cyn­i­cal ploy to ex­ploit em­ploy­ees’ vul­ner­a­bil­ity.

Speak­ing to both his al­lies and crit­ics this week, the Mail dis­cov­ered a com­plex char­ac­ter, whose ac­tions ap­pear driven as much by in­se­cu­rity as ar­ro­gance and de­sire.

The son of a fac­tory worker, Kelvin, who has two adult sons from his first mar­riage and a five-year-old daugh­ter with cur­rent wife Clare, 46, was brought up in North Lon­don, where his par­ents taught him ‘you had to work hard for any­thing you wanted’.

From the day he opened his first Ted Baker store in Glas­gow in 1988, selling fash­ion­ably gar­ish men’s shirts, the moniker Ted Baker pro­vided a fic­tional front­man for Kelvin to hide be­hind. ‘I didn’t want to use my real name,’ he said. ‘I thought I’d be a fail­ure. I could have gone bank­rupt, then my name would have al­ways been as­so­ci­ated with a failed com­pany.’

Ted was the suave al­ter ego the self-ef­fac­ing Kelvin wished he could be. In con­trast, Kelvin was ‘cam­era-shy’ and de­scribed him­self as ‘ugly’ — a rea­son given for his bizarre habit of par­tially ob­scur­ing his face be­hind inan­i­mate ob­jects such as so­fas, tow­els and books on the rare oc­ca­sions he agreed to be pho­tographed.

DE­SPITE — or, in­deed, be­cause of — his un­con­ven­tional ap­proach to busi­ness, his com­pany grew, ex­pand­ing into wom­enswear, shoes and ac­ces­sories. And when, in 1997 Ted Baker — by then worth £56 mil­lion — went pub­lic, Kelvin’s de­meanour dra­mat­i­cally changed.

Hav­ing de­scribed him­self as an ag­gres­sive ‘mon­ster’ in the early years, suc­cess brought a man­age­ment style as ir­rev­er­ent as his £ 279 sparkly jump­suits.

A keen an­gler, Kelvin was ap­par­ently once in­tent on in­cor­po­rat­ing a fish­ing shop selling tackle in the re­cep­tion of his HQ, un­til a se­nior part­ner talked him out of it. In­stead, a gi­ant board out­side the en­trance with a pic­ture of a lob­ster on it is ac­com­pa­nied by the words ‘join the fold.’

Kelvin em­ployed his mother, Trudie, who died in 2010, to sell clothes while wear­ing a badge say­ing ‘ Ted’s Mum; I taught him how to tie his shoelaces’.

Staff late­ness was pe­nalised with press- ups and linedanc­ing took place in the can­teen. ‘It was like work­ing for a cult,’ says Lucy, a for­mer em­ployee based in the Lon­don HQ for three years, speak­ing on con­di­tion of anonymity.

He was par­tic­u­larly proud of his ‘ hug cul­ture’. ‘I hug my col­leagues ev­ery day,’ he told Vogue in 2013. ‘I hug the store staff, ev­ery­one.’

Kelvin has claimed he em­braces peo­ple both be­cause chronic pso­ri­atic arthri­tis makes shak­ing hands ‘painful’ and be­cause hug­ging ‘breaks bar­ri­ers’.

Oth­ers be­lieve the de­ci­sion is more con­trived; a con­scious way of merg­ing his man­ner­isms to suit the un­ortho­dox na­ture of his cloth­ing brand. ‘

‘He works a bit too hard try­ing to be dif­fer­ent,’ a close and long-stand­ing ac­quain­tance of Kelvin’s told me. ‘De­spite his wealth and suc­cess, I think he’s in­se­cure.’

Stocky and grey- haired, Kelvin re­port­edly be­lieved him­self lucky to have at­tracted the at­ten­tion of his beau­ti­ful se­cond wife Clare, a blonde more than 15 years his ju­nior, and ad­mits hav­ing lost weight on her in­struc­tion be­fore their 2012 wed­ding.

Clare — who lives with Kelvin and their five-year-old daugh­ter in a three- storey home in Hamp­stead, North Lon­don, with a re­mov­able roof and views over St Paul’s Cathe­dral, works in the Lon­don HQ with Kelvin, a fact an­other source close to him in­sists points to his in­no­cence.

‘She’s not go­ing to stand by and watch him hug peo­ple in­ap­pro­pri­ately,’ the source said. ‘It doesn’t hap­pen. He doesn’t hug in a sex­ual way.

‘ It’s rub­bish to say he mas­sages peo­ple’s ears. He men­tors staff. He wants to know about the peo­ple he works with so he can help them reach their po­ten­tial. They’re like a fam­ily to him.

‘Ray has been com­ing into work ev­ery day dis­traught. Ev­ery­one is very upset. Peo­ple have been cry­ing.

‘We don’t know who has [started the pe­ti­tion]. They have been able to stay com­pletely anony­mous. I be­lieve most of the peo­ple be­hind this don’t even work for Ted Baker any more.’

Tear­fully, one em­ployee stressed Kelvin’s loy­alty to his work­ers: ‘ One woman has worked here since she was 16 and is now a di­rec­tor. The cleaner has been here for 30 years. Ev­ery year, with­out fail, she wins Em­ployee of the year.

‘ One man had can­cer and Ray helped with his treat­ment and held him in his

‘I hug my col­leagues ev­ery day ... the store staff, ev­ery­one’

hos­pi­tal bed. Ray is the most hon­ourable man.’

These sen­ti­ments were echoed by Kelvin’s first wife, Geor­gia Slowe, 53, who lives five min­utes away from him. A for­mer ac­tress in Em­merdale, she mar­ried Kelvin in 1993 and re­mained friends af­ter di­vorc­ing him in 2000.

‘I think what’s hap­pen­ing is ridicu­lous,’ she says. De­scrib­ing Kelvin as the ‘loveli­est man’ she adds: ‘I think it’s won­der­ful to have a fam­ily-like at­mos­phere at work. He’s a bril­liant busi­ness­man.’

Per­haps so, but Kelvin — awarded a CBE for his work in fash­ion in 2011 — is in­ap­pro­pri­ately puerile and his hu­mour pep­pered with sex­ual over­tones. For ex­am­ple, he in­sists that even those em­ploy­ees in a re­la­tion­ship when they joined Ted Baker must have an ‘of­fice boyfriend’ or ‘of­fice girl­friend’.

While he clearly en­joys flirt­ing, he doesn’t limit his at­ten­tion to one woman — or man. ‘He is ef­fec­tively hav­ing an af­fair with ev­ery­body, ev­ery day,’ says one ac­quain­tance. ‘He’s just as touchy-feely with men. He is child­like and craves at­ten­tion and ap­proval.

‘I think he’s charm­ingly weird rather than sin­is­ter and creepy. But as Ray has got older, he has be­come slightly more ec­cen­tric and lost sight of the ef­fect his ac­tions have on oth­ers. He for­gets he is old enough to be his em­ploy­ees’ fa­ther.’

Both Saman­tha and Lucy tell me the se­nior co­hort of em­ploy­ees sur­round­ing Kelvin seemed happy enough hug­ging their boss.

‘It was well known that those in the higher lev­els were to­tally fine with it,’ says Lucy, adding: ‘I don’t know if they went along with it be­cause they were be­ing paid a lot of money and hug­ging was a part and par­cel of be­ing there.’

It seems to have been pri­mar­ily Kelvin’s younger em­ploy­ees, bet­ter versed in po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness and work­place rights than older gen­er­a­tions, who ob­jected enough to in­sti­gate the re­cent pe­ti­tion. ‘I can’t re­call any sales as­so­ciates — who were aged be­tween 19 and 27 — who wanted to hug him,’ says Saman­tha. She was warned by col­leagues when she started as a sales as­sis­tant this year that, should she meet Kelvin, he would hug her for ‘way too long’.

She adds: ‘I was ner­vous, but the man­agers made it seem there was no choice; that it was a big deal to meet the CEO of your com­pany. I didn’t want to get into trou­ble.’

BE­FORE her own en­counter, she had al­ready seen Kelvin kiss a male col­league on the fore­head. ‘He told me af­ter­wards he’d never felt so vi­o­lated. I told him to go to hu­man re­sources, but he said noth­ing would be done — that’s just Kelvin’s way of say­ing hello.’

When it hap­pened to Saman­tha weeks later (with a kiss on the shoul­der) she, too, kept quiet. ‘I didn’t think HR would lis­ten,’ she says. ‘ I felt dis­ap­pointed and em­bar­rassed and didn’t tell any­one.’ In­stead, she made sure she was out of Kelvin’s vicin­ity next time he vis­ited the store, and left his com­pany shortly af­ter­wards.

Ru­mours of un­hap­pi­ness have swirled around for some time, but have, un­til now, been con­tained.

When Re­becca Waller-Davies, a jour­nal­ist from trade pub­li­ca­tion Re­tail Week, sug­gested to Kelvin that women had been co­erced into sit­ting on his knee this sum­mer, he told her she was on ‘very dan­ger­ous ground’ be­fore pulling her to a hug, kiss­ing her cheek and claim­ing, ‘I am not apol­o­gis­ing for this’ — words that, tellingly, re­mained un­pub­lished un­til this week.

As even a close ac­quain­tance con­cedes: ‘ I can imag­ine him say­ing that. He’s very sen­si­tive to crit­i­cism and I know this episode will have hurt him.’

Whether through loy­alty or fear, no staff at any of the three Ted Baker stores the Mail vis­ited this week would com­ment on their boss’s sit­u­a­tion. When the Mail vis­ited the Lon­don HQ to ask to speak to Kelvin, three mem­bers of staff emerged to tell our re­porter he was not avail­able.

Af­ter re­peated at­tempts to con­tact Kelvin for com­ment, a state­ment from Ted Baker said the com­pany would ‘care­fully con­sider the con­tent and rec­om­men­da­tions’ of the in­de­pen­dent re­port.

‘We have al­ways placed great im­por­tance on our cul­ture. It is crit­i­cally im­por­tant to us that ev­ery mem­ber of our staff feels val­ued and re­spected at work. We do not be­lieve these re­ports are re­flec­tive of the or­gan­i­sa­tion we have all worked hard to de­velop over the last 30 years.’

Kelvin, for his part, said in a state­ment yes­ter­day: ‘Ted Baker means ev­ery­thing to me and I can’t bear to see it harmed in any way.’

Whether he can weather this storm — and whether he de­serves to — is a mat­ter of opin­ion.

Hands-on boss: A rare pic­ture of Ray Kelvin’s face

Bash­ful: The Ted Baker CEO of­ten hides be­hind props in pho­tos

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