Kids Company founder Camila Batmanghelidjh not disqualified

Kids Company founder Camila Batmanghelidjh and seven former trustees including Alan Yentob will NOT be disqualified after High Court ruling

  • Kids Company collapsed in 2015 just after getting a £3m grant from Government
  • In 15 years, Kids Company took a reported £42million from the taxpayer 
  • Batmanghelidjh reportedly paid £90,000 salary when Kids Company went down
  • Mr Yentob forced to step down as the BBC’s creative director in December 2015

A bid to disqualify Kids Company founder Camila Batmanghelidjh and seven of the former charity’s trustees including Alan Yentop from being company directors until 2035 has been thrown out by a High Court judge today.

The Insolvency Service (TIS) brought court proceedings against them over the alleged financial mismanagement of the former children’s charity that collapsed after having £42million of taxpayers’ money poured into it over a decade.

TIS has the power to ban any senior officials from organisations that have liquidated from taking similar positions for up to 15 years if their management contributed to insolvency. 

Proceedings were brought at the High Court in London against the founder and ex-chief executive of Kids Company, Ms Batmanghelidjh, and seven of its former trustees, including the BBC’s ex-creative director Mr Yentob, who was chairman of the charity.

The charity, which supported vulnerable children and young people in London and Bristol until it was wound up in 2015, attracted a number of celebrity backers including former prime minister David Cameron, Coldplay, artist Damien Hirst and comedian Michael McIntyre.

In 15 years, Kids Company took a reported £42million from the taxpayer, with minister said to be ‘in the thrall’ of Ms  Batmanghelidjh, who squeezed £3million from Mr Cameron just before its collapse.

Its closure came shortly after police launched an investigation, which was eventually dropped seven months later, into allegations of abuse and exploitation at the charity, following the broadcast of a BBC Newsnight report.

Ms Batmanghelidjh, who gave evidence to the court over a videolink during a remote hearing last year, said she believed the charity was ‘attacked by envy’. While in a statement to the court, Mr Yentob blamed the Met saying: ‘Were it not for the timing of the police allegations, Kids Company would be working today’.

But when Kids Company collapsed in August 2015 there were allegations of abuse and financial mismanagement, casting severe doubts on Mr Yentob’s ability as its chairman and the power he wielded at the BBC. 

On five occasions Mr Yentob was accused of trying to put pressure on BBC journalists reporting on the scandal, even turning at the Radio 4 Today programme studio uninvited when Ms Batmanghelidjh was about to be interviewed.

Camila Batmanghelidjh and Alan Yentob (pictured together) faced being disqualified from running companies after the Kids Company charity scandal that collapsed in scandal but have been given a reprieve

The charity collapsed in 2015, just weeks after it was handed a £3million grant by David Cameron’s government with ministers said to be ‘in thrall’ of founder Ms Batmanghelidjh who was handed piles of taxpayers’ cash 

Mr Yentob was later forced to step down as the BBC’s creative director in December 2015 after admitting that his involvement in the Kids Company scandal had become a ‘serious distraction’ to the broadcaster.

Camila Batmanghelidjh, Kids Company’s colourful founder, was given ‘unique, privileged and significant access’ to the top tiers of Government for years

Mr Yentob had been accused of compromising the BBC’s impartiality on five separate occasions by meddling with its coverage of the failed charity.

In a ruling on Friday, Mrs Justice Falk concluded that no disqualification order should be made against either Camila Batmanghelidjh or the trustees – including the BBC’s ex-creative director Alan Yentob.

The judge found that Ms Batmanghelidjh was not a ‘de facto director’ of the charity.

She added: ‘If I am wrong about that then I would still not have made a disqualification order against her, taking all the circumstances into account and on the basis of the allegation or allegations made against her.

‘Although there are differences between Ms Batmanghelidjh’s position and that of the trustees they are not clearly relevant to the case as put.

‘I would also point out the enormous dedication she showed to vulnerable young people over many years and what she managed to achieve in building a charity which, until 2014, was widely regarded as a highly successful one doing what senior members of the government rightly described as incredible work.

‘It would be unfortunate if the events in the focus of this decision were allowed to eclipse those achievements.’

In relation to the trustees, Mrs Justice Falk said: ‘I am wholly satisfied that a disqualification order is not warranted against any of the trustees.

‘As I said above, the public need no protection from them. On the contrary, I have a great deal of respect for the care and commitment they showed in highly challenging circumstances.’

In a statement after the ruling, Camila Batmanghelidjh said: ‘I would like to express my sincere thanks to Mrs Justice Falk for her incredible patience, understanding and wisdom for giving us the opportunity to set the record straight about the work of Kids Company.

‘I hope this judgment will be the first step in refuting the many lies that have been told and banishing the false myths.

‘My regret is that many thousands of children whom we supported were left unassisted and vulnerable once our service was withdrawn and that there were many others who never got a chance to receive help.

‘To them, my heart goes out. I would also like to thank our many donors, staff and volunteers for their remarkable support.

‘I shall not break step in my continuing campaign for the rights of children and to build for them a better future.’

He piled pressure on journalists and presenters as they were preparing to go to air with their reports on Kids Company, of which he was chairman.

He personally telephoned Newsnight executives twice ahead of investigations into the failed charity, and sat silently in the Radio 4 Today programme studio during an interview with its founder, Ms Batmanghelidjh.

His resignation was met with gleeful cries in the BBC newsroom, which has been at the sharp end of Mr Yentob’s interference. 

Mr Yentob was accused of trying to repeatedly influence the BBC’s coverage of Kids Company, including accompanying the charity’s founder, Camila Batmanghelidjh, to a Radio 4 interview

Ms Batmanghelidjh said she recognised the charity was a ‘victim of its own success and that the demand for its services was outstripping its capability to manage’.

In a statement to the court, Mr Yentob said: ‘Were it not for the timing of the police allegations, Kids Company would be working today.

‘For the reasons set out above and in the affidavits of the jointly represented trustees, I do not accept that the charity had a business model that was unsustainable or that the trustees are unfit to be concerned in the management of a company,

‘These disqualification proceedings are a profound and unjust humiliation for the trustees who gave years of dedication and commitment to supporting the most vulnerable in our society.’

The Official Receiver (OR), which brought the case against Ms Batmanghelidjh and the former trustees, argued they are ‘unfit’ to hold company directorships as a result of their handling of the charity.

The charity collapsed in 2015, just weeks after it was handed a £3million grant by David Cameron’s government.

In 15 years, Kids Company took a reported £42million from the taxpayer, but a damning 2016 report showed ‘catastrophic failures’.

Batmanghelidjh was reportedly paying herself a £90,000 salary at the time that Kids Company went under.

An investigation was also carried out over claims that thousands of pounds of the charity’s money was spent on paying the boarding school costs of her chauffeur’s daughter.

Soon after, Yentob resigned as the BBC’s creative director in the wake of controversy over his role as chairman of the scandal-hit group.

Kids Company’s founder Ms Batmanghelidjh had ministers ‘in her thrall’ and her ‘powerful personality’ allowed her to become an expert at controlling people, a senior Tory MP said at the time.

Bernard Jenkin, then chairman of the influential Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC), said the controversial charity boss deliberately prevented information reaching trustees – including ministers.

A report published by the committee in 2016 urged the BBC to reopen its investigation into Alan Yentob, the former chairman of Kids Company, after he was accused of ‘deliberately intimidating’ corporation staff during the collapse of the scandal-hit charity.

The MPs said his meddling in the BBC’s coverage of Kids Company had been ‘unwise at best, and deliberately intimidating at worst’. And they said BBC bosses were too slow to take action against Mr Yentob.

Mr Yentob, pictured with Rod Stewart,  continued to present his £150,000-a-year job presenting Imagine but then quit the BBC after admitting the scandal became a distraction

In a damning assessment of Batmanghelidjh, Mr Jenkin said: ‘The founder of this charity was a very, very powerful personality, who had a very, very big vision and she became expert at controlling the people around her and even the trustees were in her thrall to an extent’.

Accusing the charity’s trustees of negligence, he added: ‘People sometimes chose trustees to be very nice and well-motivated people, but who don’t necessarily have expertise in the sector they’re dealing with.’

Mr Jenkin suggested that allegations of sexual abuse in the charity – which ultimately did not lead to any prosecutions – were ‘the straw that broke the camel’s back’ and led to the charity losing its reputation.

The charity, which aimed to support deprived and vulnerable inner-city children, received £46million of government funding over 13 years including £3million days before it collapsed last August.

The Commons committee admitted in its report: ‘Ms Batmanghelidjh and Kids Company appeared to captivate some of the most senior political figures in the land.’

How Alan Yentob tried to pressure BBC staff during the Kids Company funding scandal that saw him forced from the corporation

Alan Yentob (right in the Calais jungle) was forced to apologise after repeated clashes with BBC colleagues over Kids Company

His first intervention came when he called Newsnight on July 2 2015 as it was preparing to reveal that the Government was withholding £3million of funding from Kids Company, which folded  months later.

The following day he turned up uninvited at Radio 4’s Today studio as charity founder Camila Batmanghelidjh was interviewed.

On the Thursday he tore into BBC News special correspondent Lucy Manning ahead of an investigation into allegations of abuse at the charity, but he later apologised.

Then, more than a month later – and after the initial controversy – Mr Yentob telephoned Radio 4 presenter Ed Stourton, 45 minutes before he was due to go on World At One with an item about Kids Company. 

Mr Yentob insisted there is no conflict of interest because he does not have control over BBC News. ‘I’m not remotely considering my position at the BBC. I don’t think I’ve in any way abused my position at the BBC,’ he said in October 2015. 

Mr Yentob admitted the interventions and said he ‘regrets’ any intimidation to BBC journalists, but insisted that he did not compromise the BBC’s editorial independence.

The BBC faced mounting pressure to axe Mr Yentob, amid concerns that he has abused his position at the corporation to promote Kids Company, and that his failures as chairman have now made him ‘toxic by association’.

Among the most embarrassing episodes, was the ‘hysterical’ letter signed by Mr Yentob and sent to ministers as the charity was negotiating for more Government funding.

It warned that without Kids Company there could be ‘arson attacks’ on Government buildings, rioting in the streets and ‘savagery’ in parts of Britain.

However, Mr Yentob compounded the embarrassment when he told MPs on the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Select Committee that a boy had been murdered because of the charity’s collapse.

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