Alan Yentob, the former BBC creative chief, is facing a minimum five-year exclusion from holding company directorships as the Government pursues action against the former bosses of Kids Company, the failed charity.
Sky News has learnt that lawyers acting for Mr Yentob and his fellow ex-Kids Company trustees have been handed a deadline of December 20 to agree voluntary boardroom bans.
The talks are aimed at drawing a line under months of talks between the Government’s Insolvency Service and the former trustees following widespread criticism of their stewardship of the charity, which collapsed in 2015.
Unless an agreement is reached by the pre-Christmas deadline, the Insolvency Service is expected to pursue formal disqualification proceedings against the trustees through the courts.
Sources said on Friday that Camila Batmanghelidjh, Kids Company’s controversial founder and chief executive, was not part of the negotiations relating to so-called voluntary undertakings and was likely to face an attempt to disqualify her from boardrooms.
Ms Batmanghelidjh was not on the charity’s board, but the Insolvency Service is understood to have been arguing that she “acted as a de facto director”.
Talks about the voluntary undertakings have been underway for at least two months, with former trustees asked to agree to varying periods during which they would not serve as a director of any company.
The former Kids Company directors were told during the summer that they faced bans of between two-and-a-half and six years.
Mr Yentob, who chaired the charity for 12 years, is thought to have been informed that the Insolvency Service was pursuing a six-year disqualification against him, but giving a voluntary undertaking would be expected to reduce that period to around five years.
He stepped down from his BBC role four months after Kids Company’s collapse, saying his continued service was “proving a serious distraction” to the Corporation.?
He continued to be paid a six-figure sum last year by the BBC for presenting Imagine, an arts programme.
Mr Yentob had been accused of editorial interference after criticising BBC journalists’ coverage of Kids Company’s financial problems.
Filings at Companies House show that he is an active director of a company called I Am Curious…Productions.
It was unclear whether all of Kids Company’s former trustees remained in talks about offering undertakings.
They are understood to be being advised by Bates Wells Braithwaite, a law firm.
According to guidance published by the Insolvency Service, individuals who are subject to proceedings to ban them can either defend the case in court or offer a “disqualification undertaking”.
That voluntary route usually results in individuals agreeing to slightly shorter periods of ‘disqualification’.
It also avoids them having the ignominy of a formal ban against their names, even though the outcome is effectively identical.
Kids Company’s other trustees included Richard Handover, a former boss of WHSmith, Vince O’Brien, former chair of the British Venture Capital Association, and Jane Tyler, a former partner at the law firm Macfarlanes.
Kids Company’s collapse sparked a huge political controversy, because of the backing it had received from David Cameron, the then Prime Minister.
Mr Cameron backed a £3m Government grant to the charity little more than a month before its demise, arguing that its work meant it was worth “one more go” to secure its future.? ?
Ms Batmanghelidjh, who was awarded a CBE during Mr Cameron’s premiership, ran the charity on a £90,000 annual salary and vehemently defended its governance even as it lurched towards bankruptcy.
Kids Company claimed to support 36,000 children and young adults, working with those who were struggling with mental health issues after being involved in gun and gang crime, or who were suffering from neglect.?
In total, it received £42m of public money over a 15-year period – although some media reports have put that figure at as much as £50m.
It eventually closed its doors, though, after the Metropolitan Police launched an investigation into allegations of abuse at the charity.
A damning report by MPs in February 2016 outlined an “extraordinary catalogue of failures”, with its board of trustees reliant on “wishful thinking and false optimism”.
Mr Yentob could not be reached for comment on Friday, while Bates Wells Braithwaite declined to comment.
The Insolvency Service has not commented since a statement in July, in which it said:
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“We can confirm that the Insolvency Service has written to the former directors of Keeping Kids Company informing them that the Business Secretary intends to bring proceedings to have them disqualified from running or controlling companies for periods of between two-and-a-half and six years.?
“As this matter will now be tested in the court it is not appropriate to comment further.”