By Kathryn Hopkins
with contributions from Samantha Conti
 on December 7, 2018
Ted Baker Spring 2017 ad campaign

Ted Baker’s Ray Kelvin is on voluntary leave amid the sexual harassment storm at the British retailer.

The high-street stalwart announced Friday that its founder and chief executive officer, who has a 35 percent stake in the company, will take a voluntary leave of absence “for the benefit of the business and the people who work in it.”

The board has appointed chief operating officer Lindsay Page as acting ceo with immediate effect.

Last week, Ted Baker hired law firm Herbert Smith Freehills LLP to conduct an independent external investigation into reports of harassment of staff by Kelvin.

The company said it has also appointed an independent committee of non-executive directors to ensure that the views and concerns raised in recent media reports, and a petition signed by staff members, are recognized and considered and that appropriate responses are conducted.

That committee will be chaired by Sharon Baylay, a business coach and mentor who has been a non-executive director at Ted Baker since June.

Kelvin’s decision to step back came after Ted Baker received further serious allegations against him, which the company said it is investigating. The Sunday Times of London reported over the weekend that a female employee has accused Kelvin of scaring her and touching her inappropriately while he was wearing a mask one Halloween in the office.

“The accusations of the past week have raised some very serious and upsetting issues. It is only right that the board and HSF should investigate fully,” said Kelvin in a separate statement Friday.

“Ted Baker has been my life and soul for 30 years. 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,” he added.

News of the allegations broke last weekend when The Sunday Times reported that staffers have accused Kelvin of inappropriate hugging, touching and sexual innuendo.

They have also said the company’s human resources department has been slow to address their concerns. The company has denied any wrongdoing.

“As previously stated, the board has moved quickly to appoint Herbert Smith Freehills LLP to conduct a thorough and independent external investigation into recent reports regarding the company and its ceo,” David Bernstein, non-executive chairman, said Friday.

“Ted Baker has great people across its global teams as well as a highly experienced operational board underpinned by the strength and experience of our teams. I am confident that the business remains in a strong position to continue to deliver its long-term growth strategy.”