A former president of the Royal Albert Hall has called on the current president to resign over a long-running dispute about the hall’s governance and the private sale of tickets at inflated prices.
Richard Lyttelton, a retired executive at the former music giant EMI who was president of the charity between 2010 and 2011, has made the call for the departure of Jon Moynihan, the former executive chair of PA Consulting who now runs a venture capital firm, in a letter to The Times newspaper that it has published today as a news story.
The letter says recent events have shown that "the governing council of the hall, dominated by commercial self-interest, continues to bring shame on this great institution".
Lyttelton has been campaigning for reform of the constitution of the hall, which provides for a majority on its governing council to be elected from among the owners of a quarter of the hall’s seats, who can and do sell their tickets privately at high prices on the internet.
Moynihan has been leading resistance to pressure to change this aspect of the constitution. The hall’s own ongoing constitutional review has specifically ruled out doing so, arguing that its conflict of interest policy was sufficient.
The Charity Commission has also been pressing the hall to amend its constitution to remove the seat-holder majority, repeatedly setting timetables for action that the hall has not followed. It has recently asked the Attorney-General for consent to refer the case to the charity tribunal so it can clarify its powers to impose changes to the hall’s constitution.
Lyttelton’s letter points out that 19 members of the council and parties related to them own 143 seats.
"What is not disclosed is these seats are worth in the region of £20m and 90 of them are owned by just four council members and their related parties, who could earn upwards of half a million pounds a year just by returning them to the box office under the hall’s own ticket-return scheme," it says.
"Under its current president, the council has tasked the executive and the hall’s lawyers with defending the indefensible. Enough is enough – it’s time for the president to step down and the hall to be given a constitution worthy of its charitable status and place in our nation’s heritage."
The commission said in a recent statement that the perception that trustees could benefit financially from their role was very damaging and the hall had been unwilling to deal with a number of central issues.
"We have taken the unprecedented step of seeking the consent of the Attorney-General to refer a number of questions to the charity tribunal relating to the charity and the exercise of the commission’s regulatory powers.
"These will include, but are not limited to, the nature of the charity’s constitution, the commission’s ability to issue a scheme in order to amend the constitution and the proposed content of such a scheme."
A spokeswoman for the hall was not able to comment in time before publication of this story.