Ted Baker’s founder and CEO, Ray Kelvin has resigned as the fashion brand investigates allegations he behaved inappropriately toward staff, CNN reports.
The British company said in a statement Monday that Kelvin has left with immediate effect. He had been on a voluntary leave of absence since December following allegations of harassment, including “forced hugging” of staff members.
Complaints over Kelvin’s behavior first emerged late last year. Thousands of people, including members of staff and customers, signed an online petition demanding an end to the hugging practice and a better system for reporting harassment allegations at the firm.
The petition included accusations of “inappropriate touching” by Kelvin and “a culture that leaves harassment unchallenged.”
Kelvin regularly made sexual innuendos, stroked people’s necks and discussed his sex life, according to the petition.
But Kelvin denies all claims that he acted inappropriately toward employees.
A third-party investigation into the allegations against him and into Ted Baker’s policy on handling sexual harassment complaints is due to wrap up before the end of June.
“In light of the allegations made against him, Ray has decided that it is in the best interests of the company for him to resign so that the business can move forward under new leadership,” Executive Chairman David Bernstein said in the statement.
Kelvin wasn’t immediately available for comment on Monday.
Ted Baker said Lindsay Page would continue in his role as acting CEO, which he has held since Kelvin first went on leave.
Kelvin founded the high-end fashion chain in 1988 with a single store in the UK city of Glasgow. It now has more than 500 outlets worldwide.