SHEFFIELD, England (CelebrityAccess) Rupert Dell, former GM and of the Leadmill in Sheffield, England, was ordered Jan. 30 to pay more than £370,000 in damages and costs to the venue for breach of contract.
The venue accused Dell of “wholly inappropriate and unlawful actions” including falsifying trading figures, harassing and bullying staff and diverting busines to competitor venues following his dismissal. However, much of the complaint centers around an “Inappropriately intimate relationship” with a female employee dubbed “AB.”
“Between 6 January 2014 and 5 February 2014, [Dell] managed AB, interacted with her and demonstrated a level of intimacy with her that was inappropriate for the general manager of the claimant [the Leadmill] to a subordinate employee – particularly a young subordinate that the defendant [Dell] knew was vulnerable – and was an abuse of the defendant’s position of power and influence as general manager,” the court order says, according to IQ.
Dell and AB had an “existing flirtatious online relationship” which apparently led to AB getting a job as boxoffice manager despite the Leadmill having “no requirement for a full- or part-time employee” for that job. It resulted in a “costly and protracted investigation” into allegations of sexual harassment by AB which led to Dell giving “contradictory and evasive answers” to the director of the 900-capacity venue.
The decision also includes alleged falsification of accounting figures and Dell fostering an atmosphere of “inappropriate banter,” among other allegations.
Dell, a former promoter for Goldenvoice UK and head of venue programming for DHP Family, provided IQ with a long statement that said he did not have the funds to contest the allegations. He points the finger squarely at venue director Phil Mills and says he even reported Mills to the police for harassment and malicious communication.
“My wife, children and I have suffered immeasurably from the civil action taken by Phil Mills (the company director) and the Leadmill for the past three years,” it reads. “I find it immensely unprofessional to issue needless communications which I believe are clearly intended to destroy my reputation and prevent me from following a career in the industry I love and have a passion for.
“This was a civil action in a civil court brought by Phil Mills and the Leadmill. Attempts were made to bring the matter to a conclusion, but the Leadmill continued to pursue the matter in the full knowledge that they had little prospect of recovering the hundreds of thousands of pounds that they had spent on pursuing the civil case against me. Due to lack of funds I was unable to contest the case in court and therefore I believe my evidence was not heard by the judge.
“You have to ask: Why, then, did they continue? In my opinion, all they wanted to achieve was the destruction of my character and all I have achieved and worked for over 25 years.
“From the outset of this matter, I raised many counter issues in my defence such as what, in my opinion, are anti-Semitic comments that were made against me – a committed and practising member of the Jewish community – during my employment, by an employee of the Leadmill on social media and on the work email. I presented evidence of these comments and the grievance was branded as being vexatious by Phil Mills.
“It now appears that an abusive Gmail account has been set up, designed to invite harassment and abuse of my family and me, despite the legal process having ended some months ago. I believe that this is vindictive and unnecessary. I am taking legal advice on this and have raised it with the police.”
“This has been a four-year case which has hung heavily over our staff,” says the Leadmill’s current GM, Ian Lawlor, quoted in the contested press release from the venue. “It has been a long and expensive struggle but we are determined to defend and protect both our staff’s and the Leadmill’s reputations. The findings of Her Honour Judge Richardson are now a matter of public record, for which we thank her.
“We now return to our main focus. The venue is unique in this country, having been independently run for its near 40-year existence. We are concentrating on doing what we do best: creating exciting and memorable events for everyone, in a welcoming and safe environment.”
Dell’s statement concludes: “I appreciate all the messages of support and trust I have received over the past weeks. I did not do what is claimed in the statement and I now want to move on and rebuild my life.”