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The sound of silence – six months later – no apology or comment from companies linked to rapist Jones

Six months after Lawrence Jones was jailed, his former company and private equity shareholders still remain silent about the former owner of UKFast and the culture he left them.

In sentencing Jones on December 1, 2023, HHJ Sarah Johnston, before handing down a 15-year prison sentence, said the successful tech mogul presided over a culture that silenced and intimidated women who worked there.

“You created a workplace that was tainted by your attitude toward women,” he said.

But Jones’ victims, including those who left under duress, said they were “dismayed” by the lack of recognition of Jones’ behavior and legacy, and expressed disappointment that neither the NSA nor the fund private equity firm Inflexion has issued a public apology.

On three occasions since Jones’ imprisonment, TheBusinessDesk.com has sought to speak to the ANS leadership team about the transition from the Jones era to today, and to offer them the opportunity to clarify the status legal rights of women employed by UKFast and other Jones-owned companies, who were forced to sign non-disclosure agreements by Jones and those acting for him.

First, after the lawsuit, the company declined to comment and we were told it was “too early” to expect a response.

Second, in early April, on the occasion of International Women’s Day, ANS published a series of articles describing the company’s activities.

In a post on LinkedIn, the company said: “Happy International Women’s Day from all of us at ANS! 🌟”

“This year we are celebrating the theme “Inspiring Inclusion.” We recognize the barriers that women, particularly those from underrepresented groups, face on their journey to leadership. At ANS, we champion inclusion because diverse perspectives drive better decision-making and innovation.

“Let’s empower and uplift women everywhere!” »

“Stay tuned for more #IWD2024 throughout the month of March! 💪”

Once again, ANS was asked by TheBusinessDesk.com to reflect on the journey he took in the very building where Jones presided over a culture of sexism and bullying.

The response then was that the company might be willing to explain a complex legal situation in more detail, and we were told to “wait.” Two months have passed and no offer has been made.

Finally, this week, as we reach the six-month anniversary of Jones’ conviction and sentencing, the company was contacted for the third time.

Although we have questions that reflect the seriousness and anger of the victims we have spoken with since the trial, we offered to approach any meeting with ANS leadership in good faith and would seek to describe how a serious undertaking , backed by a heavyweight private equity investor of the status of Inflexion, has changed.

Yet despite a productive working relationship with Inflexion, the single response to a series of detailed questions was: “thanks for contacting us, but we will not comment.”

In response to a request for comment, an ANS councilor who was seeking to arrange a meeting, said: “They don’t want to comment.”

Lawrence Jones and his wife Gail resigned as directors of UK Fast on May 11, 2020, following serious allegations made in the Financial Times regarding his behavior in November 2019.

At the time, the board also commissioned law firm Squire Patton Boggs to conduct an investigation into the company’s culture.

The contents of this report remain a closely guarded secret, known only to very few people. It was never made public and its recommendations were never recognized.

In June 2021, Inflexion acquired ANS and in October 2021 the two companies, ANS and UKFast, merged and operated with a combined strategic and operational board from January 2022. ANS’ majority shareholder, Scott Fletcher, left the company.

At the time, it was said that “a new brand for the combined business would be announced in due course.”

The UKFast brand and name has now been completely abandoned, despite being the larger of the two merged companies.

However, the Twitter account simply changed its name to “ANS Group” and historic tweets featuring “our CEO Lawrence Jones” are still visible, along with others reflecting a very different tone and culture, including one featuring featured three staff members dressed as Barbie, from May 2016.

It could be argued that the issues raised by Jones’ behavior, including the attack on a member of staff, for which he was successfully prosecuted, relate to a different activity.

But the ultimate “topco” of the company is ANS Group Holdings Limited, formerly known as Project Mountain Holdco Limited, a company created by Inflexion with the aim of acquiring the companies.

Other significant entities in the group include ANS Academy Limited, previously known as UKFast.

Of the 10 current directors holding positions in the company, two predate the merger, with Carl Wormald representing Inflexion, and solicitor Nicola Frost, company secretary, who is described on the company’s website as having “joined the company in August 2020 as General Counsel”. , after working for the company as legal manager from 2015 to 2019.”

The business is still based at 1 Archway, occupying a significant presence on one of the main access routes into Manchester city centre. It is understood, although not confirmed by ANS, that the site is still owned by Lawrence and Gail Jones.

Other members of their inner circle have also left the company, including former managing director Jonathan Bowers, who was present alongside Lawrence and Gail Jones, including in court during the sentencing hearing.

There has undoubtedly been a sea change in the direction and management of the company.

It therefore seems all the more surprising that no one recognizes what happened before and seeks to explain the steps that have been taken to make the ANS a safe place to work.

It’s also unclear why the company can’t acknowledge that abuse has occurred.

In the aftermath of the trial, TheBusinessDesk.com described the case as Manchester’s MeToo moment, comparing it to Harvey Weinstein’s dark presence in the entertainment industry.

It was probably exaggerated. After an initial wave, interest faded.

Following his conviction, Manchester Metropolitan University stripped Jones of his honorary doctorate. But there is no word from the confiscation committee, which removes honors and must be accepted by the king, as to whether his MBE will be withdrawn. They tend not to make announcements, and have only done so on a few occasions, notably for Cyril Smith and Jimmy Savile.

By comparing, After a judge ruled Manchester City Football Club was not responsible for former manager Barry Bennell’s actions in 2022, the club still said it was “recognized by all parties that the abuse had place “.

In a statement after the ruling, the club said: “Manchester City has apologized personally and publicly without reservation for the unimaginable suffering that each survivor experienced as a result of the abuse they suffered.

“The club today reiterates its apologies to the survivors and the multiple family members and friends affected by the traumatic events, the ramifications of which are felt by so many still today and will continue to be felt for a long time to come.”

The sale to Inflexion made Jones a very wealthy man, although incarcerated for his very serious crimes. However, his assets and charitable foundation remain.

But that’s another story for another day.

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