Fashion chain Ted Baker’s chief executive Ray Kelvin is to take a voluntary leave of absence amid allegations of harassment.
Last week, an online petition launched by employees accused 62-year-old Mr Kelvin of inappropriate comments and behaviour, including “forced hugging”.
Ted Baker said its committee and board had been made aware of “further serious allegations” against Mr Kelvin.
Mr Kelvin said the claims had raised “serious and upsetting issues”.
The company has appointed a law firm to conduct an independent external investigation.
And chief operating officer Lindsay Page has been named acting chief executive.
The firm said it would not be making any further comment about the nature of the allegations while they remained under investigation.
‘I care deeply’
The petition, on the workplace website Organise, said that more than 200 Ted Baker staff were finally breaking their silence about at least “50 recorded incidents of harassment” at the fashion group.
Staff claimed that as well as engaging them in unwelcome embraces, the brand’s founder had asked young female members of staff to sit on his knee, cuddle him, or let him massage their ears.
Mr Kelvin said the allegations had raised some “very serious and upsetting issues”, and that it was “only right” Ted Baker’s committee and board should investigate.
“Ted Baker has been my life and soul for 30 years,” he said.
“I love this company and I care deeply for all my colleagues. It’s for that reason that I have decided to take a temporary leave of absence.
“Ted Baker means everything to me and I can’t bear to see it harmed in any way.”