• Sunday, June 23, 2024

Business

Former lover takes legal action against Boohoo co-founder

(REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration)

By: Pramod Thomas

ONE of the co-founders of Boohoo is facing a £20 million lawsuit from a former associate with whom he had a ‘romantic affair’ for two years.

After stepping down as a Boohoo director in 2017, Jalal Kamani, 64, recruited Leanne Holmes, 41, to launch his new enterprise, I Saw It First.

In legal filings against Kamani and the company, Holmes claimed that Kamani tasked her with developing the business, primarily known for supplying clothing to contestants on ITV’s Love Island, assuring her that it would essentially become her responsibility to oversee, reported The Times.

At one juncture, she alleged that she functioned effectively as a chief executive or managing director, investing long hours to elevate the brand’s prominence.

Holmes, who served as I Saw It First’s buying and brand director, was terminated in 2021 from the Manchester-based business.

Now, she is seeking £20m based on an agreement for a 10 per cent stake in the company. Kamani, meanwhile, disputed these claims. I Saw It First was acquired by Mike Ashley’s Frasers Group for £1 in 2022.

Jalal Kamani (Photo: LinkedIn)

The filings revealed that Kamani proposed offering Holmes a 10 per cent stake during a dinner at the Hilton in Manchester in March 2017, while persuading her to join the company.

At that time, she held the position of merchandising director at Pretty Little Thing, a Boohoo subsidiary established by Umar and Adam Kamani, the sons of Jalal’s brother, Mahmud.

Subsequently, the offer was reduced to 5 per cent, the documents reveal, after Kamani cited dissatisfaction from his business partner regarding the size of Holmes’s stake.

Following a £15m capital injection into the company in 2019, essential for its expansion, additional shares were issued and awarded to Kamani, diminishing Holmes’s ownership of issued shares to a mere 0.02 per cent.

Kamani acknowledged that he and Holmes engaged in a romantic relationship that started in 2018, according to court documents, lasting approximately two years.

However, Holmes said in legal documents that their personal association was characterised by significant pressure and influence.

Holmes alleges she requested Kamani to cease sending her personal messages around July 2019, but he persisted in sending her a “barrage” of messages thereafter, some professing “love.”

Additionally, she claims to have experienced discrimination and harassment from Kamani, with other female staff purportedly facing similar issues at I Saw It First. However, the documents do not detail the alleged harassment. Kamani denied these allegations too.

Holmes said that she felt subjected to a form of “coercive control” by Kamani after two substantial sums were deposited into her bank account, according to legal filings. One of these sums was intended to cover her housing expenses. Kamani said that these were “loans” and has initiated legal action to reclaim the funds.

Regarding the “loans,” his legal team said: “This was not to control Holmes, but because Kamani was generous and wished to bestow that generosity upon her.”

Holmes claims she was instrumental in building a successful business, whereas Kamani argues that the firm was incurring losses of £1m per month, which he was no longer willing to finance.

Kamani’s legal team said that bullying complaints against Holmes were lodged by other staff members in September and November 2021.

A trial in this case is expected to be held in Manchester next summer.

 

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