Lawrence Jones, founder and boss of Manchester hosting provider UKFast, has stepped down while an internal investigation probes allegations of workplace sexual assault, harassment, and bullying made against him.
UKFast sent us the following today:
UKFast confirms that Lawrence Jones has stepped down as CEO and is taking a leave of absence. Gail Jones, currently Managing Director, will assume the role of Chief Executive. The company acknowledges the serious allegations recently made in a national newspaper and is conducting an internal investigation.
The "serious allegations" were uncovered by a Financial Times (behind paywall) investigation in which Jones was accused of sexually assaulting two female employees and overseeing a toxic working environment. The paper described an atmosphere of fear, sexually inappropriate behaviour, verbal abuse, and bullying at the hosting company, which employs 400 people.
Reporters at the paper said they had interviewed more than 30 former UKFast staff and seen documents, photographs, and screenshots that support the allegations about an abusive working culture at the organisation.
Jones, who is reported to be worth £700m, and his lawyers last week vehemently denied the claims, which he said were wholly untrue and hurtful to his family and the UKFast team.
Jones sent us the following statement this morning:
I have decided to step down as CEO of UKFast and take a leave of absence. A number of false and malicious allegations have been made against me and I am absolutely determined to ensure that they are fully investigated so that my name can be cleared.
The interests of the employees, clients and investors in the business are paramount and much more important than any one individual. In the meantime, I am confident that the business will continue to grow and prosper.
The hosting service was considering an initial public offering late last year but Lawrence told us that Brexit put the kybosh on that plan.
Instead the company flogged off a 30 per cent stake to a private equity company in a deal that valued UKFast at £405m.
The FT, quoting "a person briefed on the situation", claimed investors had pushed for Jones to be removed in the wake of the allegations published last week. ®