The Charity Commission closes its case involving the Jim Ratcliffe Foundation.
The Charity Commission has today announced it has closed its regulatory compliance case into the Jim Ratcliffe Foundation, concluding that the charity's activities further its purposes and that there is no further role for the regulator.
The Commission opened its case to assess whether grant funding provided by the charity towards construction of Club Des Sports Courchevel's (CDS) ski clubhouse was in furtherance of its charitable purposes.
The CDS is a French charity that offers children and young people in Courchevel the opportunity to enjoy alpine sport activities, including skiing, at a subsidised cost. The site is also in part occupied by an exclusive ski clubhouse that charges high membership fees.
Between September 2019 and June 2020, the charity provided grants totalling €12,500,000 to the CDS toward the construction of the ski clubhouse building which opened in December 2021.
The exclusive members club known as the Courchevel Ski Club (CSC) operates from one room at the top of the building. CSC charges €25,000 to join alongside an annual fee of €6,000. However, the regulator now understands that the high-fee club only uses 4% of the clubhouse and that the CDS receives the income generated from this membership. The CDS itself charges its members a significantly lower amount - the equivalent of £25 per month. This allows members access to the club, with subsidies contributing to the costs of training, clothing, skis, ski passes, and competition fees.
The Commission is satisfied that the facilities and ski programme operated by CDS furthers the charity's purposes with other trading activities undertaken to generate income. The regulator has therefore determined that the decision taken by the charity to provide funding met the public benefit test. Changes have since been made to the website of CDS to make the charitable benefit they provide clearer.
As part of its regulatory compliance case, the regulator also examined the trustees' relationship with its founder and sole donor, Sir Jim Ratcliffe, examining whether funding decisions were influenced by any conflict of interest or loyalty and if so, whether this was handled appropriately.
The Jim Ratcliffe Foundation was set up in 2019 to relieve poverty and improve the lives of socially and economically disadvantaged communities and to promote amateur sport. The charity was also established to promote the preservation, protection and conservation of the natural environment.
Having reviewed the information provided by the trustees, the Commission is satisfied that Sir Jim Ratcliffe did not influence the trustees' decision on how to apply his donations. However, as all the current trustees of the charity are employed by companies that Sir Jim Ratcliffe is connected to, the Commission has identified this may cause a perception of bias or lack of independence which is a risk to the charity's reputation. The regulator has communicated this concern to trustees, highlighting that while no conflict of loyalty has been identified, the public may believe one to exist. This has been acknowledged by the trustees who have agreed to take steps to appoint at least one trustee who is not employed by a company connected to Sir Jim Ratcliffe.
The Commission has also provided the trustees with regulatory advice to help ensure they fully understand and comply with their legal duties and responsibilities.
Tracy Howarth, Assistant Director of Casework at the Charity Commission said:
The Charity Commission takes all concerns seriously and when necessary, we will open a case to carefully consider issues raised. On this occasion, our case confirmed that the Jim Ratcliffe Foundation had acted in its charitable interests.
We welcome the decision taken by trustees to agree to appointing another member to their board and thank them for their cooperation. We have found no evidence to uphold allegations made against the charity and as such, there is no further role for us at this time.
We advise all charities to ensure they communicate about charitable activities in a way that is clear and transparent, so that the public can have confidence in how their donations are being used. We encourage charities to ensure their partners do the same.
Notes to Editors:
- The Charity Commission is the independent, non-ministerial government department that registers and regulates charities in England and Wales. Its purpose is to ensure charity can thrive and inspire trust so that people can improve lives and strengthen society.
- The regulator's 5-minute guides can be found on our gov.uk page.
- Charitable purposes in other countries are not necessarily charitable under the laws of England and Wales and each is subject to the charity laws and rules of interpretation relevant to each respective jurisdiction. Having a Grant Funding Agreement in place ensures funds transferred overseas can only ever be applied towards a charity's intended purposes and are considered charitable according to the laws of England and Wales. This, and other advice from the regulator's guidance on charities and partners can be found on gov.uk.
Out of hours press office contact number: 07785 748787