LONDON — Tamara Ralph, the designer and cofounder of Ralph & Russo, which collapsed earlier this year and was subsequently sold, has responded to a multimillion-pound lawsuit against her, accusing company principals and administrators of bullying behavior.
As reported earlier this month, the joint administrators who handled the sale of Ralph & Russo to Retail Ecommerce Ventures have filed suit against Ralph in England’s High Court, and are seeking damages of 20.8 million pounds.
Paul Appleton of Begbies Traynor Group, one of the joint administrators, and Daniel Morrison, the lawyer representing him, have accused Ralph of siphoning money from the company, financial mismanagement and breaching contractual obligations by attempting to set up a competing business.
Candy Ventures Sarl, which had previously loaned Ralph & Russo 17 million pounds, is the defunct Ralph & Russo’s largest creditor, and is supporting the administrators in the suit.
Ralph has robustly denied the administrators’ claims, calling them “misconceived and demonstrably false.”
She has since filed her response to the suit, and on Monday issued a further statement about the ongoing case.
In the statement Ralph said she spent 11 years building a brand that celebrated women, “so I feel greatly saddened by what has happened to the business I created and loved, and gave my heart and soul to. I will leave others to reflect on the irony of Ralph & Russo’s female founder, creative force and face of the brand, being bullied, unfairly blamed and targeted for financial mismanagement, despite trying to prevent it.”
Ralph was referring to alleged bullying by her former life partner, and cofounder, Michael Russo. Ralph said as the company collapsed into administration, she “refused to be pressured to work with the person who had bullied me, or to be silent about what has happened to me. It made me feel deeply distressed and this conduct severely impacted my health.”
Ralph, who resigned from Ralph & Russo in May, said she had repeatedly raised concerns about financial mismanagement at the company. Russo, the company’s chief executive officer, was subsequently fired for gross misconduct, but later reinstated as chairman.
“I resigned from the company I founded as I will not tolerate bullying or abuse against women, nor was I willing to put up with how I was being treated,” Ralph said in the statement.
“I am looking forward to moving on positively and working on new projects, which better reflect the values I hold dear. I want to use my experience to positively help other women who have also been subjected to bullying, abuse and harassment in their careers and I have been overwhelmed with the love and support I have received from messages all around the world.”
In the statement, Ralph also takes issue with “those seeking to have my personal name trademarked. It made me feel as though there was an attempt to prevent me from going on, and having a career in my own name.”
Ralph was referring to applications made by one of Candy’s companies to trademark the name Tamara Ralph following her resignation from the company. Ralph made a formal objection, and the applications were later withdrawn, according to her spokesperson.
Asked about the attempts to trademark the Tamara Ralph name, a spokesperson for Candy Ventures said Monday that it has sought to clarify certain trademarks to protect the Ralph & Russo brand.
The company said the administrators’ lawsuit clarifies that “Tamara Ralph was in breach of the Trademark Act and misusing the Ralph & Russo trademark and the intellectual property of the business with a view to establishing her own rival venture, Tamara Ralph Holdings.”
Separately, in the court documents, Ralph’s lawyers refer to Michael “Russo’s campaign of bullying, harassment and abuse toward Ms. Ralph,” and said his behavior became “increasingly hostile and escalated into repeated menacing statements that he wanted Ms. Ralph to die. This behavior caused Ms. Ralph to undergo treatment for panic attacks in 2019.”
The documents add that Ralph required hospitalization in June 2020 “because of the stress from Mr. Russo’s conduct and from the litigation being brought by Candy Ventures Sarl. It caused Ms. Ralph (who was in the early stages of pregnancy at the time) to suffer severe hemorrhages, which were almost fatal to both her and her unborn child.”
Ralph has since given birth to a daughter, which she had with her new partner, the businessman Bhanu Choudhri.
In the court documents Ralph’s lawyers also say that she was bullied and pressured by the administrators and Candy into working with Russo after the company collapsed into administration earlier this year.
“The pressure on Ms. Ralph to work with Mr. Russo was applied and condoned notwithstanding detailed knowledge of Mr. Russo’s gross misconduct toward Ms. Ralph, including the serious damage which it caused to her health and the fact that Mr. Russo had been summarily dismissed as a result,” the lawyers said.
The court documents also note that Candy, and the administrator Appleton, were aware of Russo’s “serious financial mismanagement. Ms. Ralph’s objection to Mr. Russo’s continued involvement in the business, and to the insistence that she work with him, was ignored,” the lawyers said.