A charity set up by the UK’s richest person, Sir Jim Ratcliffe, is being investigated by the Charity Commission after helping fund a £16m luxury clubhouse for an exclusive French Alps club where he and his daughter have skied for years.
The Guardian can reveal that the charities watchdog has opened a “regulatory compliance case” to investigate “concerns about the governance and management of the Jim Ratcliffe Foundation”, as revealed by The Guardian.
Ratcliffe, 70, a multibillionaire tax exile who controls the petrochemicals and fracking company Ineos and is in the running to buy Manchester United, says he founded the charity to help build a new ski clubhouse in the exclusive resort of Courchevel to help underprivileged children learn to ski, and support other charitable endeavours.
However, The Guardian has found that the ski club boasts that its new clubhouse is “dedicated solely to its members”. When a reporter attempted to join the club they were told “admission requirements” include being approved by two current members, and paying a £25,000 joining fee followed by annual membership fees of £6,000.
The club describes itself as “an exclusive and prestigious club which brings together its members around common passions: skiing, pleasure and the art of living”.
Ratcliffe’s use of a UK charity to fund what appears to be a largely exclusive private members’ club raises questions about whether charitable funds have been used to fulfil its aim of providing a public benefit to a wide audience – or to support the hobby of one of the world’s richest people.
A Charity Commission spokesperson said: “We can confirm that we have opened a regulatory compliance case to assess potential concerns about the governance and management of the Jim Ratcliffe Foundation, and are engaging with the charity’s trustees on these matters.”
The watchdog opened the case after questions from the Guardian about the charity’s work and governance. Launching a regulatory compliance case is not in itself a finding of wrongdoing but it could lead to a statutory inquiry. The commission said it could not comment further.
The charity watchdog’s rules state that open membership is “essential” if a community amateur sports club is to meet the requirements of providing public benefit that applies to all charities. It has specifically proscribed sports clubs that have “restricted membership” from registering as community amateur sports club (CASC) charities. / More in The Guardian