Chelsea’s president of business, Tom Glick, told a female agent that her complaint to him about a string of inappropriate messages from a senior executive he had hired days earlier did not interest him and was not relevant to his job.
Glick’s initial response to Catalina Kim came after she forwarded him historical messages of a sexual nature she had received from Damian Willoughby, whose brief period as Chelsea’s commercial director ended last week with his sacking over the matter.
Willoughby was fired on 20 September, two days after Glick initially sought to play down Kim’s complaints during a phone call. Glick said he had set the issue aside.
When contacted by the Guardian for this story, Glick’s lawyers said that regrettably he had not properly reviewed the screenshots before their telephone call. He told Kim on the call that he had just looked at “the headlines”. Before their conversation ended, and after being pressed by Kim, he committed to looking into the issues raised.
Kim had been in talks with Chelsea and Glick on behalf of overseas investors looking to pump money into Chelsea’s academy, men’s team, women’s team and foundation, but developed misgivings after being informed on 29 August that Willoughby was set to join the club in a senior role. Glick, who worked with Willoughby at Manchester City, set up a meeting between the trio at Stamford Bridge on 1 September.
After this meeting Kim told Glick she felt “uncomfortable” working with Willoughby and on 3 September she forwarded to him eight screenshots showing messages Willoughby had sent her. Two days later Willoughby started his role at Chelsea, where he had previously worked as head of sponsorship.
After chasing Glick for a reply, Kim arranged a call with him on 18 September. Glick, who in July became the first appointment of the Todd Boehly-Clearlake Capital regime at Chelsea, initially said: “I saw some of the headlines of the stuff that you sent and I just set it aside. So it’s not something I’m particularly interested in.”
Pressed by Kim, Glick said: “It looks to me like something that is just not interesting or relevant to me in terms of running the business. But what is your view? Tell me what I’m missing.”
The messages shared by Kim with Glick showed that Willoughby brought up the subject of having sex and asked whether she was naked. Willoughby suggested he would arrange a meeting with the senior Manchester City executive Ferran Soriano if she was willing to be “naughty”. Those advances were repeatedly rejected by Kim, whose talks with Chelsea over her investment proposals are understood to have stalled since she raised her concerns.
Kim asked Glick in their phone call whether he had any concerns over how Willoughby interacted with women. Glick said: “What I’m saying is I looked at some of the headlines that you sent and I set it aside. So tell me what your view is. What is your objective?”
Kim said she was not comfortable with Willoughby’s behaviour and had concerns over his integrity. Asked whether she no longer wanted to work with Willoughby, she replied that it was down to Glick, as the person who had hired him, to review whether Willoughby should continue in his job. Glick responded: “So that’s your objective. I thought you wanted to try to create a partnership with Chelsea.”
That remark drew a surprised response from Kim, who asked Glick whether he was saying that she could not create a partnership with Chelsea if she could not work with Willoughby. Glick immediately denied that was what he was saying, leading Kim to question how her complaint was connected to her doing business with Chelsea.
Glick, questioned by Kim about whether he thought her complaint was relevant to his job, said that he had set it aside. He added that, as she had brought it up again, “I guess I’m going to have to deal with it”. Glick continued: “I’ll have to go back and look at what you sent. I did not look at the substance of it.”
When Kim responded that she had chased it up with him several times, Glick said that he had been busy and sick with Covid.
Kim has been introduced to Willoughby in 2015, when he was vice-president head of partnership sales at City Football Group (CFG), whose stable of clubs include Manchester City. Willoughby left City to join Electronic Arts as vice-president in July 2021.
Kim asked Glick whether he was concerned that other female staff members at CFG, who were not in influential positions, could have been subjected to inappropriate behaviour by Willoughby. Glick replied that he would need to review Kim’s screenshots, which he had not done yet. He distanced himself from Willoughby, who according to Kim had told him that his relationship with Glick was unbreakable.
“Let me go back and take a look at what you’ve sent me,” Glick said. “And that’s what I’ll do. I’ve not done it yet.”
Glick contacted Kim on 19 September to say that Chelsea were investigating Willoughby’s messages. Staff at the club were informed in a memo on 20 September that Willoughby had been fired. Glick also emailed Kim to thank her for bringing the matter to his attention.
Glick, a former president of Derby County, was the president of the NFL team the Carolina Panthers in his most recent job before joining Chelsea. He was CFG’s chief commercial officer from 2016 to 2018 and was City’s chief commercial and operating officer between 2012 and 2015. He has been charged with bringing in extra business to Chelsea and tasked with kickstarting their plan for a multi-club model.
Chelsea said after Willoughby’s sacking that Willoughby’s behaviour ran “absolutely counter to the workplace environment and corporate culture being established by the club’s new ownership”.
A Chelsea spokesperson said on Friday: “Once the severity of the allegations that Catalina Kim raised to Tom Glick had become apparent regarding the conduct of a new hire whilst in previous employment, the matter was immediately escalated for review. An investigation was completed, and the club took decisive action to terminate the individual’s employment.
“Mr Glick regrets that he did not initially appreciate the full extent of the allegations. After speaking to Ms Kim, Mr Glick read the evidence in full and appropriate steps were taken resulting in the termination of the individual’s employment.
“The club is committed to treating all our stakeholders with dignity and respect and does not tolerate behaviour that falls below the expected standards set by the club. The club has offered safeguarding support to Ms Kim and this offer remains open. We take all complaints seriously and have several options for escalation including the club’s whistleblowing line, safeguarding team and through our website.”