Presidents Club party guest backed Theresa May’s Tory leader bid

Sun Mark boss, whose firm gave £25,000 to campaign, unaware of misconduct at charity gala

Theresa May faces embarrassment after it emerged that a leading businessmen who attended the now infamous men-only gala dinner which she said had left her “appalled” was a major donor to her Tory leadership bid.

After the Financial Times exposé revealed that women paid to be hostesses at the £1,500-a-head Presidents Club event, attended by some of the biggest names in the City, were allegedly groped and propositioned, May expressed her dismay that such things were still taking place in the 21st century.

“I thought that that sort of approach to women, that objectification of women, was something that we were leaving behind,” the prime minister said. She added: “What worries me is it’s not just about that event, it’s about what it says about this wider issue in society about attitudes to women. We have made progress; sadly, I think it showed that we still have a lot more progress to make.”

Rami Ranger, the founder of and major shareholder in the export firm Sun Mark, which donated £25,000 to May’s campaign to head the Conservatives in 2016, and has given the party more than £1m, has confirmed that he was present, having been invited by a friend who paid for his ticket.

Rami Ranger, chairman of Sun Mark.
Rami Ranger, chairman of Sun Mark. Photograph: PR

A businessman and philanthropist who was the secondlargest donor to May’s campaign, Ranger has expressed his shock at the FT’s story. There is no suggestion he was aware of the alleged misconduct.

“Someone invited me for the first time in my life,” Ranger said. “I went because it was a charitable event. After dinner there was an after-party around the corner. I was totally surprised when I heard about the FT story, as I was surprised things can go this far.”

He told BBC Asian Network: “The presenter did make an announcement: ‘You have got young girls coming to look after you but make sure you remember that they are somebody’s daughters and sisters So don’t misbehave’.” Ranger added: “They say you live and learn. I’ve learned never to go to a men-only party.”

The allegations have focused attention on the club’s patrons and the agency that provided the hostesses.

Joint chair Bruce Ritchie and his wife Shadi have given the Tories more than £750,000 through personal donations and a property company, Residential Land.

And David Meller, the other joint chair, has given almost £70,000, including donations to four Tory MPs: Michael Gove, Liz Truss, Robert Halfon and Richard Harrington.

Kiran Daurka, of employment law firm Leigh Day, said the hostesses, who were told to wear black underwear, “black sexy shoes” and do their makeup like they were going to a “smart sexy place” could be entitled to bring “multiple claims” against the agency over the allegations. “Employers have a duty of care toward those they employ, including not to expose them to potential harassment.”​

She added: “In my opinion the women could bring claims against Artista agency, as their employer, and dependent on the allegations being proved, the potential cost to the agency and those individuals found guilty of assault or harassment, could be many millions of pounds.”

A spokesperson for Artista said: “I was not aware of any claims of sexual harassment but the kind of behaviour alleged is completely unacceptable. I am checking with the staff and any complaints will be dealt with promptly and fairly.”


Jamie Doward and Rupert Neate

The GuardianTramp

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