Former Clarks CEO Mike Shearwood is suing the footwear chain for unfair dismissal claiming he was sacked from his job as he raised concerns about financial mismanagement.
Shearwood, who joined the company in 2016 from Karen Millen, was dismissed in June of last year after Clarks said it had learned that “aspects of Mr Shearwood’s conduct, conversations and expressions fell short of the behaviours expected of all its employees on a number of occasions”.
According to The Sunday Times, which broke the story of Shearwood’s tribunal, the company alleges that he made a series of sexist and racist remarks, including referring to black people as “violent”, an Asian woman as a “thing” and a wholesale customer as a “f*****g faggot”.
Shearwood says his comments had been taken out of context and was not given a chance to respond to the allegations before being dismissed and a public statement being issued. He asserts that he was sacked as he had begun to raise concerns about financial mismanagement at the firm.
In an employment tribunal due to begin in Bristol today he is expected to allege that Clarks was close to insolvent when he joined in September 2016 and that the true state of the firm’s finances was kept from its family owners by the then chairman Tom O’Neill, who wanted to continue paying dividends.
For its part Clarks asserts that Shearwood, who earned £600,000 a year, is making false claims in order to receive a pay-out. In a statement to The Sunday Times, it said Shearwoo was “fabricating a frivolous and vexatious narrative surrounding his time at Clarks purely with the intent of eliciting a termination payment”.
Clarks was founded in 1825 in Somerset by the Quaker brothers Cyrus and James Clark, and is still based in the town of Street in Somerset. Descendants of the Clark brothers still own 87% of the business.