Self-claimed #MeToo supporter 'spanked staff and unzipped intern's dress' - report
A flamboyant gallery and club owner who claims to support the MeToo movement has been accused of sexually harassing a string of female employees.
Alex Proud, 50, who is married with three children, is the self-promoting founder and boss of the Proud Group entertainment chain in London.
Last year he publicly declared his support for the anti-sexism MeToo movement – and only last month joined a Lib Dem "round table" for entrepreneurs promoting the "safety of female employees" working in the capital’s night spots.
But it has now been claimed that Mr Proud created a "hyper-sexualised" workplace where he bullied or sexually harassed at least five young women, "slapping, grabbing and spanking" them without consent. He is said to have nicknamed himself "Daddy" or "Papa", and once presented a Christmas award engraved "Daddy’s favourite daughter".
Mr Proud, who boarded at £42 000-a-year Tonbridge School in Kent, said in a statement: "I vehemently deny any allegations of sexually assaulting or harassing my staff. I am incredibly distressed these earnest, untrue allegations have been levelled against me."
The claims against the colourful businessman, who has more than 200 staff, appeared in yesterday’s Sunday Times, which said it learned of several alleged victims. Their allegations date from 2010 to the end of last year.
According to one claim he followed a 21-year-old intern upstairs at an evening function and unzipped her dress exposing her breasts. Allegedly, he stopped when he realised there was a witness, but whispered to the young woman: "I like that you didn’t stop me doing that."
She left the company feeling unable to complain, it was said.
In another alleged incident Mr Proud celebrated the continuation of a nightclub licence by lifting up a 19-year-old female staff member and spanking her backside. She felt "shocked and humiliated" and left her job soon after.
A further two woman have claimed Mr Proud groped them, with one saying he joked that she looked "underage" and could profit by "pimping her out". A fifth woman said she resigned from her role as a publicity assistant because of his behaviour.
Mr Proud’s accusers say they want to stop others suffering as they did, but none is taking legal action.
Denying any wrongdoing, he told the Sunday Times: "The historic allegations – up to ten years old – are difficult to comprehend... In an attempt to be reflective, I respect their need to 'out' this narrative.
"However, I run a cabaret business where the majority of my staff are women. Proud is a liberal and informal workplace. I’m troubled if this environment has led these women to feel distressed.
"Contrary to what has been alleged, I have championed a progressive working environment where I have employed gay, lesbian and trans staff."
A keen self-promoter, Mr Proud started out selling photographs of celebrities through a gallery near Charing Cross. He now describes himself as a "famous cabaret nightclub and venue owner, columnist, political adviser and media commentator".
The website for his Proud Group, which has two clubs in central London and another in Brighton, features an image of men staring at a burlesque performer.
Three years ago the Lib Dem supporter was one of several business leaders to sign an open letter backing the party’s aim to stay in the European Union.
Last year he said a report about low rape conviction rates ‘blew away many of my arrogant and sexist assumptions... If this is where #MeToo takes us, then bravo.’
Mr Proud did not respond to requests for further comment. The Lib Dems did not respond to a request for comment.Daily Mail