Chelsea have sacked one of their senior executives after just two weeks on the job, following complaints of sexual harassment against him.
The Premier League club confirmed the departure of commercial director Damian Willoughby on Wednesday, who was dismissed for sending ‘inappropriate messages’ to a female colleague – football finance agent Catalina Kim.
A report by the Daily Telegraph claims his actions have put one of the club’s multi-million investment deals in jeopardy.
Willoughby only started working for the Blues in September, returning to Stamford Bridge having previously worked for the London club earlier in his career between 2007 and 2010.
But a complaint was made by Kim to Chelsea’s president of business Tom Glick – the man who hired Willoughby – saying she had been sexually harassed by Willoughby before his employment by the club, which led to the termination of the commercial boss’ contract.
A statement from Chelsea read: “Chelsea Football Club confirms that it has terminated Commercial Director Damian Willoughby’s employment with immediate effect.
“Evidence of inappropriate messages sent by Mr Willoughby, prior to his appointment at Chelsea FC earlier this month, has recently been provided to and investigated by the club. While they were sent prior to his employment at the club, such behaviour runs absolutely counter to the workplace environment and corporate culture being established by the club’s new ownership.
“The club’s owners are working tirelessly to set and achieve the highest standards both on and off the pitch, and are determined to establish and nurture a culture of transparency, accountability, inclusivity, diversity and opportunity. The club is committed to creating an environment which embodies these values.”
The news comes just a few months into new owner Todd Boehly’s reign at Chelsea, with the American having vowed to ‘instil a new environment consistent with our values’ at the club.
The Telegraph write that Kim raised her concerns about Willoughby being included on a project to bring new investment into the club’s men’s, womens’ and academy teams, over his previous behaviour.
Kim first held talks with Chelsea and Glick in July on behalf of overseas investors willing to pump hundreds of millions into the Blues, but those talks stalled after Glick added new man Willoughby to the discussions.
Kim is then said to have provided Glick with a series of sexually suggestive messages that were sent to her by Willougby in 2021. They were forwarded to the Chelsea chief on September 3 – two days before Willoughby’s official start date with the Blues.
It is alleged they included a message asking her if she was naked, bringing up the subject of having sex, a sexually explicit video and suggesting he would arrange a meeting with City chief executive Ferran Soriano if she was willing to be ‘naughty’.
It is also said that Kim repeatedly turned down Willoughby’s advances, and reminded him that he is married.
Approached for comment by the Telegraph, Kim, who is being advised by her solicitor Nick Trainer, said in a statement: “I can confirm that I made a complaint to Tom Glick about the general behaviour of Damian Willoughby over two years, including his recent threatening phone call to me.
“I strongly believe this is not a work environment and corporate culture that any Premier League club would tolerate.”
Lawyers for Willoughby are said to have declined to comment.