A dinner hosted by charity The Presidents Club has been exposed for running men-only dinners where female hostesses are groped and harassed, with money raised for charities included Great Ormond Street Hospital Children's Charity (GOSH).
The Presidents Club Charity Dinner, which takes place annually and was held in the ballroom at The Dorchester hotel in London last week, and details of the event have been highlighted in a Financial Times investigation where a journalist went undercover as a hostess.
The black-tie event was held last Thursday evening and was attended by 360 figures from British business, politics and finance, with the entertainment including 130 hostesses hired for the occasion.
The Financial Times reported that all the women were told to wear “skimpy black outfits with matching underwear and high heels”. At an after party many were said to have been “groped, sexually harassed and propositioned”.
GOSH has distanced itself from the event and charity representative bodies have condemned the reports of what happened. The Charity Commission and Fundraising Regulator are looking into the allegations.
Charity’s income steadily increased
The Presidents Club Charitable Trust has been registered with the Charity Commission since 1993, and has no employees and only three trustees. The charity's activities are said to be to “pay donations to registered charities and other good causes”.
The charity’s income seems to primarily come from the annual event. Its income was over £2m in 2016, according to its latest annual accounts. The accounts show that in 2016 the charity spent £2.2m, and that just under £600,000 of that was on annual event expenditure.
Thursday’s dinner was said to have raised over £2m, up from £1.6m raised in 2016 and £1.3m in 2015. Figures for 2017 are not yet available.
The charity’s accounts show several donations were made in 2016, including £280,000 to GOSH, £100,000 to Guys & St Thomas Charity, £150,000 to Disability Rights International, and £70,000 to The Children’s Charity - although no charity by that name is registered.
The 2016 accounts show that during the year, the charity made a pledge of £500,000 to Guy's & St Thomas' Charity (Evelina), payable in five equal instalments of £100,000 from August 2016.
‘Boob job for the missus’ auction price
According to the Financial Times, one of the auction prizes available on Thursday’s dinner was the naming rights to a new intensive care unit at Evelina London Children’s Hospital. This bid was said to have been won by Richard Caring, owner of high-end restaurants including The Ivy, who had the winning bid of £400,000. Caring was also the winning bid on a course of plastic surgery, which was labelled a “boob job for the missus”.
The charity's website includes a list of organisations who have received donations over the last decade.
The charity dinner has been going on for 33 years, but the activities on the night have generally remained unknown.
The three trustees named on the Charity Commission’s website are David Robert Meller, Harvey Soning and Bruce Ritchie. Meller runs the luxury good specialist Meller Group, and also sits on the board of the Department for Education and the Mayor’s Fund for London, Ritchie is a property developer who founded Residential Land, and Soning is also a property developer.
Hostesses subject to groping and lewd comments
The Financial Times revealed that “over the course of six hours, many of the hostesses were subject to groping, lewd comments and requests to join diners in bedrooms elsewhere in the Dorchester”.
A waiver on a piece of corporate literature accompanying the event said: “The Presidents Club shall accept no responsibility and shall not be held liable for the actions of its members, staff or event attendees that amount to harassment”.
According to the FT the dinner also involved a charity auction which included bidding on a night in a strip club in Soho, a course of plastic surgery with the invitation to “Add spice to your wife”, as well as lunch with Boris Johnson, Britain’s foreign secretary, and afternoon tea with Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England.
The event was hosted by comedian David Walliams, with those listed on the attendee list – although not necessarily attending – included business figures such as Philip Green of Arcadia Group, Dragon’s Den star Peter Jones, and Ocado boss Time Steiner.
Nadhim Zahawi, newly appointed under secretary of state for children and families, confirmed to the BBC that he attended on the night, but said he had left early and that it was a completely different event to the same one he had attended in 2010.
Civil Society News has attempted to contact the charity this morning, but was told that no one was available and to call back later.
Yesterday the charity provided this statement to the FT: “The Presidents Club recently hosted its annual dinner, raising several million pounds for disadvantaged children. The organisers are appalled by the allegations of bad behaviour at the event asserted by the Financial Times reporters. Such behaviour is totally unacceptable. The allegations will be investigated fully and promptly and appropriate action taken.”