The Royal Institution of Great Britain leased space to a company run by its chairman without obtaining legal permission.
Baroness Susan Greenfield, who used to be the RI’s director before being made redundant, means that the scientific institution was already surrounded by controversy. Susan Greenfield lost her position because the RI management’s finances could not stretch far enough to maintain her post. They therefore made the decision that her position was deemed unnecessary. Greenfield is now pursuing legal action in order to sue the RI for sexual discrimination.
On top of this, it has now been brought to light that The Royal Institution actually leased its Central London office base to Ferranti Limited, the private equity company.The Chief Executive of Ferranti, Adrian de Ferranti is also the Chairman of the RI. Problems have arisen due to the RI being a charity, which means that any leases made to associated persons like CEOs, need to be made clear to the commission for approval. This is according to the Charities Act 1993, but the RI failed to notify them of the lease.
The supervisory body’s spokeswoman was able to confirm that Ferranti did not get the lease authorised. She commented "We have asked the Royal Institution for further details of the arrangement in order to determine our role in the matter."
Chris Rofe, CEO of the RI said that they had been leasing to Ferranti since December 2008, but did not ask for the appropriate permission when the tenancy was initially granted.
However, the RI explained they were trying to gather the required information so they could fully comply with the law. Rofe further commented "I cannot recall which way around the conversation was but needless to say as soon as it was drawn to my attention I took the appropriate action to rectify the matter."
The RI is believed to be experiencing a complete financial meltdown due to the recession, and the £22m refurbishment which took place at its Mayfair Headquarters.
An audit revealed that the Institute desperately needed to organise its financial situation and warned them that "If the charity is to continue as a going concern, the financial projections for the three years ending 30 September 2011 need to be met … By their very nature, there is a significant uncertainty as to whether these projections will be achieved."
There is talk that the costly renovation of their site was a mistake.
Some people in Susan Greenfield’s defense believe that she is being used as a scapegoat for collective decisions that were made, as well as being punished for trying to make an old institution steeped in tradition, more modern. There are also concerns that the press got hold of inaccurate information concerning the refurbishment of the Central London base, with the aim of damaging Greenfield’s professional reputation.
The architect responsible for the development, Sir Terry Farrell, said that he did not recognise Greenfield’s flat.
He commented "They couldn't be more wrong or wider of the mark. The director's flat has traditionally always been a huge, substantial flat of about 3,000 sq ft with very high ceilings. We were tasked with finding a suitable place that wouldn't interfere with the running of the building, so we looked at the caretaker's tiny flat on the roof which is about 500 or 600 sq ft."
Sir Terry stated that the caretaker’s one bedroom flat had been renovated in order to raise the ceiling height, and that it is by no means a ‘James Bond flat’ and far more comparable to a standard council flat.