Mobile Billionaire Ross Leaves Months After Starting Royal Opera House | Economic news
David Ross, the billionaire co-founder of The Carphone Warehouse and prominent Conservative Party donor, is set to step down as president of the Royal Opera House (ROH) a few months after the start of a four-year term.
Sky News has learned that directors at the world-famous Covent Garden institution in London have started to prepare to find another long-term president after being told of Mr Ross’s impending exit.
The search will begin just over nine months after Mr Ross was announced as the successor to the late oil trade mogul Ian Taylor, and just eight months after taking on what was supposed to be a role that would last until the end of 2024.
Sources familiar with the situation said over the weekend that the tycoon’s departure was triggered by his future appointment for a second term as President of the National Portrait Gallery (NPG) by Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden.
According to insiders, Mr Ross is expected to be confirmed for another term at the gallery in the coming weeks, leaving him with little choice but to step down as Royal Opera House.
A source suggested that Mr Ross initially assured the ROH board that he would leave the National Portrait Gallery if they agreed to appoint him, but that the circumstances surrounding the disputed history of the gallery’s works meant he had to stay there. rather.
When he was appointed to the ROH, he said he was “passionate about creating opportunities for everyone and so that everyone can benefit from our great cultural institutions, artists and musicians”.
A prominent arts and education philanthropist who has spent millions of pounds of his own money to fund academies across the country, Ross has close ties to the Conservative administration.
He “facilitated the accommodation” of Boris Johnson on Mustique during a £ 15,000 holiday the Prime Minister took to the Caribbean island over Christmas 2019, according to a spokesperson for the businessman.
Her impending exit from the Royal Opera House has baffled figures in the arts industry at a time when she was forced to rely on an emergency loan from the government’s Arts Stimulus Fund to weather the COVID-19 crisis.
The ROH is funded by an annual grant from the Arts Council England as well as through ticket sales and private donations – an area where Mr. Ross has experience as a prolific fundraiser.
Last November, the businessman intervened to consolidate the finances of the Opera by purchasing the portrait of David Hockney from the late Sir David Webster, the institution’s former managing director.
Mr Ross paid £ 12.8million including fees for the painting, which he immediately loaned to the ROH to continue hanging on it.
A source close to him said he intervened to preserve the portrait in British ownership and promised to keep it on public display.
“It was essential to stabilize the funding of the ROH,” said the source.
Officials from the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sports (DCMS) have been briefed on the situation with the ROH board of directors but will not be directly involved in the search for Mr Ross’s successor.
Sir Simon Robey, former ROH chairman and now its honorary vice chairman, is expected to step in as interim chairman pending the appointment of a long-term replacement, insiders added.
The ROH Board of Directors includes a range of prominent figures from the arts and business world, including Sir John Kingman, the former Treasury Mandarin, former BP CEO, Lord Browne, and Sir Lloyd Dorfman, the founder of Travelex.
Lady Heywood, widow of former Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood, is Deputy Chairman of the ROH Board of Directors.
Mr Ross was said to have witnessed the competition for president last year from George Osborne, the former chancellor.
Mr Osborne recently joined Sir Simon’s City consulting firm Robey Warshaw and is expected to be interested in replacing Mr Ross at the ROH.
Like other artistic and cultural institutions, the ROH has seen its finances decimated by the pandemic.
Alex Beard, its chief executive, said in December he was “extremely grateful for the important and vital support from Arts Council England and DCMS through the Culture Recovery Fund”.
“This repayable funding will help alleviate some of the immediate financial damage caused by this crisis, easing our path to reopening and paving the way for the world’s greatest artists to return to our stages once again.”
A spokeswoman for the Royal Opera House declined to comment on Saturday.
A spokesperson for DCMS said: “We have no role in the nomination process for positions on the Royal Opera House Board of Directors.
“All public appointments are considered to comply with the government Code for Public Appointments.”
Neither Mr. Ross nor Sir Simon could be reached for comment.
Coincidentally, news of Mr Ross’s departure from ROH comes on the same day that Sir Charles Dunstone, his former business partner, allegedly resigned as chairman of the Royal Museums of Greenwich in protest at the government’s refusal to rename a leading administrator. .
The Financial Times said Mr Dowden blocked a second term for Aminul Hoque, an academic, in what the newspaper called “a culture war”.
In recent weeks, Sky News reported that other figures with ties to the Tories were being considered for important public positions, including former minister Lord Marland, who was shortlisted to chair the Competition and Markets Authority. .