Regent's College rapped over conflicts of interest

Regent's College in London has been criticised by the Charity Commission for conflicts of interest in the boardroom that resulted in the resignations of four trustees.

In a report published last week, the commission raised concerns about governance arrangements at the college, home to the UK's largest private business school.

The college was managed by a trust led by three governors - one individual and two unnamed corporations. The governors had the power to hire and fire trustees.

In September 2001 the college signed a seven-year agreement worth £5.6m with management consultancy Mergeprime, a company that was linked to the corporations.

The deal granted the company a fee of £800,000 a year for seven years, plus 15 per cent of the college's pre-tax profits. It included penalty clauses for early termination.

The regulator got involved 11 months later when a legal adviser to the college blew the whistle. "The commission advised that the corporations should stand down as governors and that a sufficient number of independent governors should be appointed," the report said.

Four trustees, unnamed in the report, subsequently resigned, and the college terminated its agreement with Mergeprime.

"There is nothing in the report that we would dispute," said professor Aldwyn Cooper, chief executive of the college. "We have since made sure there is a real separation between our trustees and our executive management team."

Sally Kirby, head of charities at accountancy firm Chantrey Vellacott DFK, said trustees should disclose personal interests at the beginning of every meeting.

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