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Two Senior Property Figures Were Trustees Of Charity Whose Event Is At The Centre Of Sexual Harassment Claims

The Dorchester Hotel, London

Two well-known property figures were trustees of a charity facing claims that women were sexually harassed at its annual fund-raising event.

Residential Land founder Bruce Ritchie and James Andrew International Chairman Harvey Soning are two of the three trustees of the Presidents Club Charitable Trust. Soning was one of the founders of the charity 33 years ago. The third trustee is beauty supply businessman David Meller.

The allegations were first published in a Financial Times article on 23 January, and on 24 January the charity announced it was disbanding, and that all remaining funds would be distributed to other charities as soon as possible.

Residential Land is an investor in London rented residential apartments and has set up joint ventures with international investors like Ivanhoé Cambridge. James Andrew International is one of the best-known niche agents in the U.K.

A Financial Times reporter conducted an investigation which involved working undercover at the charity’s annual dinner, held at the Dorchester hotel in London.

The event was for men only, and saw around 350 men from the worlds of business, politics and sport entertained by 130 hostesses.

The hostesses were told to wear "sexy black shoes and black underwear," according to the FT report, and had to sign a non-disclosure agreement before starting work without being given the chance to read the document.

The report detailed allegations from hostesses that they were groped, propositioned and asked if they were prostitutes. The report detailed women being afraid and visibly shaken.

Ritchie and Soning declined to comment on the report when contacted by Bisnow.

The FT also reported that a large proportion of the guests had links to the property sector. Of the 21 tables 10 were sponsored by property companies, and 151 of the 300 guests were either from the real estate industry or invited by someone in the sector.

A an initial statement from the President’s Club said: “The Presidents Club recently hosted its annual dinner, raising several million pounds for disadvantaged children. The organisers are appalled by the allegations of bad behaviour at the event asserted by the Financial Times reporters. Such behaviour is totally unacceptable. The allegations will be investigated fully and promptly and appropriate action taken.”

Update, 12.55 ET: Following the initial publication of this article the Presidents Club announced would close, and the article has been updated to reflect that.