The short reign of Delia Bushell at the Jockey Club ended in extraordinary and ignominious circumstances on Sunday night when the centuries-old organisation issued a statement that she would stand down immediately. The position of the 48-year-old, whose arrival was heralded with delight just 13 months ago, was said to be untenable following a review of allegations against her, including claims of bullying and making racist comments.
The review was conducted by an unnamed barrister, said to be independent of the Jockey Club and appointed and briefed by an employment lawyer rather than the Club itself. After interviewing 19 witnesses including Bushell, he found evidence to support some of the allegations, according to the statement.
“Delia Bushell is to stand down as group chief executive with immediate effect,” it said. “The barrister submitted a detailed report to a sub-committee of the board comprising Dido Harding, Julia Budd and Justin Dowley on Sunday 23rd August in which he concluded that there was evidence to support a number of the allegations of misconduct, including bullying behaviour towards colleagues, inappropriate racist comments and sharing offensive materials.
“The sub-committee of the board agreed with his conclusion and decided that there was a basis for disciplinary action against Delia, including on the grounds of gross misconduct.”
Nevin Truesdale, the Jockey Club’s finance director, is to act as interim chief executive.
In her resignation letter, Bushell complains the grievance procedure against her has been “fundamentally mishandled” by the board and speaks of her shock at the way the Jockey Club has treated her. She denies the allegations and complains of “unmerited, dishonourable, bullying behaviour by people I previously held in high regard”.
“While I do not claim to be perfect in all that I have done, nothing in my conduct has merited what I have experienced over the past two months,” she concludes.
Bushell was a high-flyer at BT Sport and Sky before arriving at the Jockey Club, where she immediately became involved in negotiations over the sport’s contract with ITV. She presented herself as a modernising force and received the backing of Clare Balding, who was quoted in the Sunday Times as saying: “She’s doing a very difficult job and it’s not going to be popular with everyone, especially people whose jobs are under threat.”
The Jockey Club, which used to run horse racing in Britain, remains an enormously powerful and successful business within the sport, owning and managing racecourses including Cheltenham, Aintree, Epsom and Newmarket and with an annual turnover of £200m.