Michelle Mone steps down from board of Ultimo

Michelle Mone will review start-up help for young people. Picture: PA
Michelle Mone will review start-up help for young people. Picture: PA
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MICHELLE Mone has resigned from the board of the underwear firm she founded and which shot her to national prominence, it emerged yesterday.

The bra, lingerie and swimwear firm Ultimo revealed Ms Mone had left its board and the board of parent group MJM International earlier this month.

It is time for you to flourish and start your next chapter

Michelle Mone

The news came amid controversy over the Glaswegian’s appointment as its new business start-up czar and reports that she is to become a Conservative member of the House of Lords.

Prominent Scottish business figures have criticised Ms Mone’s new role, claiming she does not have the business credentials for the position.

Earlier this month, the 43-year-old, who grew up in the east end of Glasgow, was appointed by the department for work and pensions to review the support available for people from less advantaged areas to start up their own businesses.

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Yesterday a statement from Ultimo said: “As such, Michelle will spend most of her time on these new projects and commitments, leaving limited time for her engagements with Ultimo.”

It added: “Ultimo wishes Michelle every success in her new personal projects and public engagements, and thanks her for her contributions in the past and for her future support of Ultimo’s growth.”

Ms Mone co-founded Ultimo’s “cleavage-enhancing” bras in 1996 with her then husband Michael.

Following a protracted divorce, her husband left the company in 2013, and a year later Ms Mone sold 80 per cent of the business to Sri Lanka-based lingerie group MAS Holdings. After the sale to MAS Holdings, Ms Mone had remained a director – until her departure was announced yesterday.

Recently it was reported that MJM International suffered losses of £780,000 in its last year, 2013, before passing its assets to Ultimo Brands, which also made a loss.

There was more controversy when it was reported her company had used employee benefit trusts (EBTs) – tax avoidance schemes previously described as “morally repugnant” by Chancellor George Osborne.

According to documents filed at Companies House, more than £500,000 was paid into the EBTs in 2010 and 2011 when Ms Mone and her former husband, both company directors, were trustees of the fund.

Ms Mone has a high media profile and has appeared on TV shows including The Apprentice, Celebrity Masterchef and Surprise Surprise. She also owns stakes in a tanning firm and a slimming business and works as a motivational speaker.

Douglas Anderson, joint managing director of the Gap Group, a tool and plant hire company, has written to David Cameron describing Ms Mone as “a small-time businesswoman”, saying elevating her to the House of Lords would be “highly divisive”, given her outspoken opposition to Scottish independence.

John Pirie, a partner in the private equity firm Nevis Capital, said he had been “flabbergasted” to learn of Ms Mone’s new role.

Yesterday Ms Mone’s spokesman said it was her decision to resign from the board.

On twitter, Ms Mone said: “To my beloved Ultimo I gave birth to you in 1999, comforted you whilst you were teething, helped you through your pains and 
protected you from the bullies…but now I have made my decision and it is time for you to flourish and start your next chapter with the biggest and best intimate apparel manufacturer in the world. I will always love you, Mummy x”.

The department for work and pensions has argued that Ms Mone’s business success was “well documented” and said she was “more than qualified” to help young entrepreneurs from deprived backgrounds develop businesses.