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Top architects’ PR facing company directorship ban

Erica Bolton with former Tate boss Nicholas Serota
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Erica Bolton, who represents Zaha Hadid Architects, Foster + Partners and OMA, faces disqualification proceedings due to her former role as a trustee of the collapsed charity Kids Company

Bolton, a founding director of Bolton & Quinn – an international PR agency which specialises in arts and culture and also represents galleries including the Tate, the V&A and the Serpentine – was recently notified by the Insolvency Service of business secretary Greg Clark’s intention to bring proceedings to have her and eight other former board members of the charity disqualified from running or controlling companies for between two-and-a-half and six years.

Clark’s decision – which will now be tested in the courts – follows an investigation carried out by the Insolvency Service, an executive agency of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

Bolton & Quinn was founded in 1981 and Bolton is the company secretary as well as a director alongside her business partner, Jane Quinn.

The court proceedings will name all nine former Kids Company board members. Besides Bolton, these include the BBC’s former creative director Alan Yentob and Richard Handover, a former boss of WH Smith. The other former board members are Sunetra Devi Atkinson, Vincent Gerald O’Brien, Francesca Mary Robinson, Jane Tyler and Andrew Webster.

Former Kids Company chief executive Camila Batmanghelidjh was not formally a director at the time the charity collapsed in 2015. However, a spokesperson for the Insolvency Service said the proceedings would ‘allege that she acted as a de facto director and should therefore also be disqualified from running or controlling other companies’.

Bolton declined to comment to the AJ. However, in April the trustees vowed to defend themselves ‘vigorously’ against potential disqualification proceedings brought by the Insolvency Service. In a statement issued on their behalf by law firm Bates Wells Braithwaite, the trustees said that at all times they had the interests of the children and young people in their care as their primary concern.

The statement said they gave ‘significant amounts of our personal time and money to that end’, took professional advice on legal and financial matters and were required by funders to undergo ‘regular, stringent scrutiny and validation by external independent parties, including auditors’.

There is no suggestion that we acted dishonestly or in bad faith

The statement continued: ‘There is no suggestion that we acted dishonestly or in bad faith. As far as we are aware, there has never been a case where trustees of a charity have been disqualified by a court in circumstances such as these.

‘We acted diligently throughout and, if any proceedings are brought, will defend ourselves vigorously.’

Founded in 1996 to support deprived children in London, Kids Company had high-profile supporters including former prime minister David Cameron and grew to employ 600 people. It was heavily dependent on public money as well as private donors, who began to withdraw support prior to the collapse of the charity following reports of financial mismanagement.

Statement from the Insolvency Service

Intention to commence company director disqualification proceedings advised.
A spokesperson for the Insolvency Service said: ‘We can confirm that the Insolvency Service has written to the former directors of Keeping Kids Company informing them that the Business Secretary intends to bring proceedings to have them disqualified from running or controlling companies for periods of between two-and-a-half and six years.
As this matter will now be tested in the Court it is not appropriate to comment further. The proceedings will name all nine former directors: Sunetra Devi Atkinson, Erica Jane Bolton, Richard Gordon Handover, Vincent Gerald O’Brien, Francesca Mary Robinson, Jane Tyler, Andrew Webster and Alan Yentob.
The former chief executive Camila Batmanghelidjh was not formally a director at the time the charity collapsed, however the proceedings will allege that she acted as a de facto director and should therefore also be disqualified from running or controlling other companies.
The intention to bring disqualification proceedings follow an investigation by the Insolvency Service, an executive agency of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

April statement by former Kids Company trustees

As former trustees of Kids Company, we are jointly responding to unconfirmed reports that the Insolvency Service may or may not recommend that proceedings are taken to disqualify us as company directors.

As non-executive trustees we were responsible for over-seeing the charity. At all times we had the interests of the children and young people in our care as our primary concern. We freely gave significant amounts of our personal time and money to that end.

We took professional advice on legal and financial matters. In order to satisfy our funders, it was necessary to undergo regular, stringent scrutiny and validation by external independent parties, including auditors.

It is deeply regrettable that the charity was forced to close following the instigation of a Metropolitan Police investigation of allegations that subsequently were found to be unfounded.

There is no suggestion that we acted dishonestly or in bad faith.

As far as we are aware, there has never been a case where trustees of a charity have been disqualified by a court in circumstances such as these. We acted diligently throughout, and if any proceedings are brought will defend ourselves vigorously. What happens to us could have serious implications for the thousands of other trustees who want to do charitable work in this country.

  • Sunetra Atkinson
  • Erica Bolton
  • Richard Handover
  • Francesca Robinson
  • Jane Tyler
  • Andrew Webster
  • Alan Yentob

The trustees do not intend to comment further at this time.

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