Delia Bushell, the chief executive officer of the Jockey Club, has stepped down after an independent inquiry upheld allegations of ‘gross misconduct’.
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Having joined the organisation in September 2019, an independent barrister upheld allegations relating to bullying, the use of racist comments and circulation of offensive material. The barrister, said to be independent of the Jockey Club, interviewed 19 witnesses including Bushell as part of the investigation.
Reported in a letter published by the Racing Post, Bushell addressed her ‘shock’ at the decision of being dismissed from the organisation.
Tendering her resignation on Sunday, Bushell wrote: “The Board purports to be upholding fairness in its management of the grievance, but this is not the case: the process followed was both flawed and biased.
“There is nothing fair about a process in which the testimony of myself and my witnesses is largely disregarded or discredited on the grounds that they ‘may not be objective’, while the evidence of collusion by a number of male witnesses, all senior executives in the Jockey Club, both ahead of the filing of the grievance and during the investigation process itself, is ignored by your barrister.
“Several witnesses contacted me to express their concerns about the barrister’s lack of impartiality and their impression that the line of questioning was designed to achieve a particular outcome. They suggested that the process appeared a deeply unpleasant ‘stitch up’ and advised that I walk away from the Jockey Club immediately.”
Bushell took over from Simon Bazalgette, having entered racing after spending a significant portion of her career working in television, both at Sky and BT Sport.
Having held a three-year tenure as the managing director of BT Group’s £1bn TV and Sport division, Bushell oversaw the takeover of premium sports rights, including the English Premier League, Uefa Champions League, Premiership Rugby and the Ashes.
The letter continued: “I have been subjected to unmerited, dishonourable, bullying behaviour by people I previously held in high regard and trusted. I clearly cannot rely on the trust and confidence of the Board, which has once again allowed the long-standing discriminatory undertones of the Jockey Club to prevail.
“I note that this report did not uphold the complaint of bullying, nor of 15 other allegations. I do not accept the barrister’s findings in relation to the other allegations.
“Given the toxicity of the working environment I find myself in, the predetermination of the disciplinary and the clear and ongoing threats to my reputation, I have no choice but to accept the repudiatory conduct described in this letter and to resign with immediate effect.”
Addressing the matter, the Jockey Club said: “The board of the Jockey Club announces today that Delia Bushell is to stand down as group chief executive with immediate effect. This follows the completion of an independent review into a wide range of allegations about her conduct, which the board concluded made it untenable for her to continue in the role.
“As part of this review, an independent barrister interviewed 19 witnesses, including Delia. He submitted a detailed report to a sub-committee of the board comprising Dido Harding, Julia Budd and Justin Dowley on Sunday 23rd August, in which he concluded that there was evidence to support a number of the allegations of misconduct, including bullying behaviour towards colleagues, inappropriate racist comments and sharing offensive materials.
“The sub-committee of the board agreed with his conclusion and decided that there was a basis for disciplinary action against Delia including on the grounds of gross misconduct. This recommendation was accepted by the full board of the Jockey Club.
“The board of the Jockey Club also announces that Nevin Truesdale has been appointed as acting group chief executive.”