- Hostesses at an exclusive men-only black-tie charity dinner at London were allegedly repeatedly sexually harassed by guests.
- According to an investigation by The FT, the women were groped and propositioned.
- A seating plan includes numerous high-profile British figures from the world of politics and finance.
A black-tie charity dinner in London attended by high-profile British figures from the worlds of politics, finance, and entertainment is rife with sexual harassment and inappropriate behaviour, according to an investigation from The Financial Times.
On January 18, 2018, the Dorchester Hotel played host to the Presidents Club Charity Dinner, an annual male-only event that raises millions of pounds for children’s charities. Two reporters for The FT attended the 2018 event undercover, working as hostesses hired by the event to entertain the nearly 400 guests.
They, and hostesses they spoke to, relayed accounts of frequent groping by attendees, an incident of indecent exposure, “lewd comments,” and other sexual harassment and inappropriate behaviour. “I’ve never done this before, and I’m never doing it again,” a 19-year-old hostess told the paper. “It’s f—ing scary.”
At the official after-party, an unnamed “society figure” allegedly told a hostess: “You look far too sober … I want you to down that glass, rip off your knickers and dance on that table.”
Business Insider has not independently verified these allegations.
The event was reportedly hosted by the comedian David Walliams, and a seating plan seen by The FT included multiple high-profile figures from finance and politics.
Business Insider has contacted those on the list, and is not republishing their names until they have had time to respond.
‘I am not aware of any reports of sexual harassment and with the calibre of guest, I would be astonished’
When contacted for comment, spokesman Craig Breheny sent Business Insider the following statement on behalf of the Presidents Club:
“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.”
Events company Artista was responsible for sourcing the hostesses. Founder Caroline Dandridge told The FT: “This is a really important charity fundraising event that has been running for 33 years and raises huge amounts of money for disadvantaged and underprivileged children’s charities. There is a code of conduct that we follow, I am not aware of any reports of sexual harassment and with the calibre of guest, I would be astonished.” (A spokesperson declined to comment further to Business Insider.)
Property developer Nick Candy is a former patron of the event, but did not attend in 2018, a spokesperson said.
The event also reportedly featured an auction to raise money for charity, with the lots including an evening at a strip club and plastic surgery – a description for which invited recipients to “add spice to your wife.”
Lunches with foreign secretary Boris Johnson and Bank of England governor Mark Carney were also offered, according to the Financial Times’ report.
Johnson and Carney did not respond to Business Insider’s requests for comment.
Advertising conglomerate WPP sponsors a table at the event on an annual basis, and European COO Andrew Scott reportedly attended in 2018. CEO Martin Sorrell has allegedly attended in previous years.
When contacted for comment, a spokesperson told Business Insider that the company is cutting ties with the event in light of The FT’s investigation.
“WPP has traditionally sponsored a table at the Presidents Club dinner to support its fundraising for children’s charities. Neither the company nor our attendees were aware of the alleged incidents until informed of them by the Financial Times.
“WPP takes these reports very seriously and, while we will continue to support relevant charities, in light of the allegations we are ending our association with the event,” Chris Wade said in a statement.
The Presidents Club Charity Dinner has run for more than 30 years, and The Independent hinted at its tone in an article in 2010:
“The most eye catching part of the event – which is strictly for male diners – was the bevy of hostesses dressed in short black or red dresses, who entered the ballroom after dinner, to the fanfare of Shania Twain’s ‘Feel Like a Woman’. Each are paid £120 for ‘fetching drinks’ and ‘socialising with’ the glitzy guests,” an unnamed author wrote.
“”The boys tucked into the girls,’ confesses my man on the inside, before adding swiftly: ‘after I’d left.'”
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