The multi-millionaire boss of UKFast, who stepped down following sexual harassment and bullying allegations, had been facing pressure from his customers, the PA news agency can reveal.
Lawrence Jones, who received an MBE in 2015 for services to the digital economy and was pictured with Boris Johnson at the Conservative Party Conference, is taking “a leave of absence”, the business-to-business hosting company confirmed on Wednesday night.
“The company acknowledges the serious allegations recently made in a national newspaper and is conducting an internal investigation,” UKFast said.
The firm declined to give further details, including the scope of the investigation or whether an external law firm would be appointed to conduct it.
Mr Lawrence’s wife Gail will take over in his absence.
Now PA can reveal that the firm, whose boss was a guest at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, has removed a major family business and an ambulance service from its advertising.
North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) and key cutter Timpson both told PA they would ask under-pressure UKFast to take their names off the company’s online marketing after allegations surfaced in the Financial Times last week.
Both organisations have since disappeared from the website, as has a third, Space 48, which did not respond to requests for comment from PA.
It is a blow for UKFast, which boasted online of how its computer servers support NWAS’s 4,700 paramedics around the clock. The case study included comments from an unnamed employee.
“We were unaware of this case study but, on review, we will be asking for it to be removed regardless of our future relationship with UKFast,” NWAS told PA.
It added: “The comments within are the personal view of an individual and do not reflect the position of the trust. As a public body, the trust has an impartial view on use of suppliers and does not make recommendations or endorsements.”
It comes after members of staff who spoke to the Financial Times accused Mr Jones, who is estimated to be worth around £700 million, of sexual harassment and bullying.
The self-made man, who has donated £100,000 from his business to the Conservatives over the past two years, was accused of unwanted touching, verbal abuse, and creating an atmosphere of fear in the workplace.
A spokesman for high street brand Timpson, one of the case studies that UKFast used to attract new customers, said: “We would like to confirm a request has been sent to UKFast to remove the case study relating to Timpson from their website and understand this has now been actioned.”
A former PA to Mr Jones told the Financial Times he had taken her to a sex shop just days after she started in the role. She claimed he thrust a dildo into her face and later asked her to gift-wrap a sex swing.
The chief executive was also accused of walking around the office topless and sitting with female employees on his lap.
It has been a week since the allegations against Mr Jones surfaced in the Financial Times. Yet the company still features the Cabinet Office’s logo, among many others, in its online marketing.
NWAS, which is the UK’s second largest ambulance service, is set to review its contract with the business when the current one expires “imminently”.
However, Ross Williams, founder and boss of Venntro – the company behind dating site JustSingles, another case study on UKFast’s website said: “We’ve been working with Lawrence and his fantastic team for many years – the people we have worked with at UKFast have been a great partner to us and we look forward to seeing a resolution of these concerning allegations.”
Andy Needham, director of another case study, Approved Food, said the company had already switched away from UKFast before the allegations surfaced.
“All I can add is that in all the dealings we have had with Lawrence and his team at UKFast, they have been extremely professional with us.
“UKFast have helped with our journey over the years but we took a decision earlier this year, on commercial grounds, to implement an alternative solution for our hosting needs and have since implemented that solution,” he said.
UKFast’s marketing also includes the Cabinet Office’s Resilience Direct programme, Ashton on Mersey School, the NHS’s Health Education Yorkshire and the Humber, consultancy Space 48, and Shuttleworth College.
None responded to request for comment; however, Space 48’s case study has been removed from the UKFast website since it was contacted by PA.