John Allan, the chair of supermarket giant Tesco, has denied allegations of inappropriate touching by two women.
The prominent business leader was president of the crisis-stricken Confederation of British Industry (CBI) business group until 2020, and vice president for a further year.
The Guardian newspaper reported on Tuesday morning that Mr Allan – who has been chair of Tesco since 2015 – allegedly touched the bottom of a senior member of Tesco staff at the retailer’s annual general meeting (AGM) last June.
Mr Allan was also accused of allegedly touching the bottom of a member of staff at the CBI during its annual dinner in 2019.
He said the allegations were “simply untrue”.
The 74-year-old also denied claims in the newspaper that he made “inappropriate remarks” on those occasions as well as similar, separate comments to female workers at the CBI in 2019 and 2021.
It reported that some of the women were offended by the alleged actions and considered them to be sexual harassment.
Mr Allan has denied all but one allegation, making a comment about the appearance of a CBI staffer in 2019, which she said was offensive.
A spokesman for Mr Allan said he was “mortified” after making the comment and “immediately apologised”.
“The person concerned agreed the matter was closed and no further action was taken,” the spokesman said.
“Regarding the other claims, they are simply untrue. Even so, Mr Allan requested that Tesco and Fox Williams – who were instructed by the CBI to conduct an investigation following various allegations – investigate them.
“Fox Williams decided not to, and Tesco are not aware of and have not received any complaints about Mr Allan’s conduct either at the 2022 AGM or over the eight years that he has been chairman of Tesco.”
A spokeswoman for Tesco said: “In relation to John Allan’s conduct at Tesco’s 2022 AGM, Tesco has received no complaints or concerns formally or informally, including through our confidential Protector Line service.
“At Tesco, we are committed to ensuring all colleagues are respected and feel safe at work.
“Tesco’s people policies apply to all colleagues, and all concerns or complaints raised about conduct are always taken very seriously and investigated thoroughly.
“This is a serious allegation, and if anyone has any concerns or information, we would ask them to share those with us through any of our reporting channels including through our confidential protector line, so we can investigate.
“John Allan’s conduct has never been the subject of a complaint during his tenure as chair of Tesco. We note that John strongly denies the allegation in relation to Tesco’s AGM.”
The CBI has been contacted for comment.
The new reports come after the CBI trade body was shaken by previous allegations of widespread sexual harassment over the past two months.
The decline of the CBI started in early March when the Guardian published accusations of misconduct against then-director general Tony Danker.
A month later the newspaper published another article saying that more than a dozen women who worked for the CBI had approached it claiming they had been sexually harassed by colleagues. One woman said that she had been raped.
Days later, after outside lawyers had concluded the first part of their report into the CBI, Mr Danker was fired and Rain Newton-Smith was announced as the group’s new boss.
Mr Danker later hit out at the CBI, saying he was the “fall guy” and that his reputation had been “totally trashed.”
The paper later published a second allegation of rape and a new allegation of stalking against CBI staff.
In response, dozens of the UK’s biggest companies, including Tesco, walked away from the organisation.
The CBI decided to suspend all policy and membership activities in response.