The woman ousted as chief executive of the Jockey Club has alleged that her successor conspired to remove her by sharing a private email, in the latest escalation of an extraordinary public clash at the top of horse racing.
Lawyers for Delia Bushell, a 48-year-old former BT and Sky executive who resigned last week after an investigation upheld claims of misconduct, including “bullying, racist comments and sharing offensive materials”, wrote to the Jockey Club this weekend with threats of legal action and detailed denials of the allegations she faced.
The letter, seen by The Sunday Telegraph, also alleges that Nevin Truesdale, the finance chief promoted to acting chief executive following Ms Bushell’s departure, was part of a group of “male co-conspirators” who she claims plotted with Tom Manners, the sales and marketing director who it has been widely reported made the complaint against her.
Lawyers for Ms Bushell allege Mr Truesdale provided Mr Manners with an email she had privately sent to a headhunter about a marketing vacancy. In it, she stated a preference for “young and energetic” candidates, a comment which was later found by the barrister investigating the complaint to support claims of ageism.
Ms Bushell’s lawyers at Mishcon de Reya argue that the barrister, Jack Mitchell, had “taken a minor comment out of context and used it to support an implausible but extremely damaging allegation”.
She had intended to justify a lower basic salary for the role and so negotiate a lower upfront headhunter fee, the letter said.
Last night, via solicitors, the Jockey Club and Mr Truesdale denied that he “forwarded” the email.
Responding to the latest allegations, the organisation also said: “The Jockey Club completely refutes the false and unsubstantiated claims against it made by Delia Bushell and we are saddened by this chain of events.
“The decision that Delia Bushell should leave the Jockey Club was entirely the result of a full and fair investigation into a number of serious allegations that were raised about her behaviours, not an alleged conspiracy. The board stands by its decision and the evidence on which it was based.”
It follows an earlier statement that Mr Mitchell had found “evidence to support allegations of misconduct, including bullying behaviour towards colleagues, inappropriate racist comments and sharing offensive materials”.
Ms Bushell publicised her resignation letter in response, which alleged the investigation had been “fundamentally mishandled”.
This weekend, Ms Bushell also rejected allegations of racism after Mr Mitchell found that on the balance of probabilities she had made a comment “with racist overtones” by referencing Candace Owens, a black US conservative commentator.
Ms Owens had described George Floyd, whose death at the hands of Minneapolis police led to protests, as a “criminal”.
Ms Bushell’s lawyers said she had expressed no affinity for Ms Owens’s views and that it was in the context of a discussion about a diversity initiative. However, it is understood the investigation found she had initially denied making the statement and only later suggested it was a quote from Ms Owens.
Ms Bushell had intended to acknowledge that “these kinds of issues were often polarising”, her letter said.
Mr Mitchell’s finding against her was based on a WhatsApp message sent by one of the “co-conspirators” that quoted “the words of Candace Owen in a way designed to imply that they were the view of our client”, it added.
Ms Bushell conceded sharing an offensive image of singer Susan Boyle “was a significant lapse in judgment”, but she had been encouraged to do so as part of a discussion on the volume of memes circulated during lockdown.