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UKFast CEO Lawrence Jones steps down amid sexual misconduct allegations

CEO of Manchester-based cloud computing firm denies allegations of misconduct, and is taking a leave of absence while the claims are investigated

Lawrence Jones, CEO of Manchester-based cloud computing firm UKFast, is taking a leave of absence from the company as national newspaper claims about his alleged sexual misconduct and inappropriate behaviour are “fully investigated”, it has emerged. 

The tech tycoon, who founded UKFast in 1999 and is estimated to be worth £700m, was the subject of an investigation by the Financial Times earlier this month, informed by the responses of more than 30 former employees.

The resulting article featured allegations that Jones had sexually assaulted two female employees over the past decade, as well as further claims about his inappropriate behaviour in the workplace, including reports of sexual harassment, bullying and verbal abuse.

Jones has vehemently denied the allegations made in the article, describing them as “false and malicious”, and has confirmed he will step down as CEO and take a leave of absence from the company to ensure the claims are thoroughly investigated.

“A number of false and malicious allegations have been made against me and I am absolutely determined to ensure that they are fully investigated so that my name can be cleared,” said Jones in a statement to Computer Weekly. 

“The interests of the employees, clients and investors in the business are paramount and much more important than any one individual. In the meantime, I am confident that the business will continue to grow and prosper.”

A separate statement, issued by the UKFast press team to Computer Weekly, confirmed Jones’ departure, adding that his wife and company managing director, Gail Jones, will take over as CEO.

“The company acknowledges the serious allegations recently made in a national newspaper and is conducting an internal investigation,” the statement said.

The company declined to respond to Computer Weekly’s questions about the permanence of Jones’ departure.

Read more about UKFast

According to UKFast’s most recently published Companies House accounts, filed in August 2019, the company reported a 12% year-on-year increase in organic revenue for the 2018 financial year, which saw it bank revenue of £53.9m during the 12 months to 31 December 2018.

The filing also detailed the concerted effort the company has made in recent years to expand beyond its SME-focused roots to court the UK public sector.

This has included the acquisition and rebrand of public sector-focused SIA Holdings to UKFast Public Sector, but also through securing networking accreditations that pave the way for the firm to offer hosting and cloud services to the NHS and police forces, as well as central and local government organisations.

This work, in turn, has resulted in it securing the business of Manchester City Council as an anchor tenant within one of its regional datacentre hosting hubs, as well as new deals with the Cabinet Office.

Elsewhere, the company has embarked on a series of initiatives designed to address the UK’s tech skills gap, which has included partnering with Girl Guides to create a digitally focused badge for the organisation, and its continued championing of apprenticeship schemes to bolster the number of people entering the tech industry.

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