A top UK angel investor group backed down over plans to hold its annual bash at The Dorchester late tonight amid a growing boycott against a set of luxury hotels owned by the Sultan of Brunei.
The UK Business Angels Associations (UKBAA) raised eyebrows this morning after inviting guests to a "prestigious" awards ceremony at the Brunei-owned hotel, despite growing outrage over the Sultan’s new penal laws that include stoning gay people.
However, in an email sent to City A.M. late this evening the UKBAA’s boss said that it had "made the decision to halt all proceedings with the hotelier in relation to our awards ceremony this year", as it became the latest business group to distance itself from the Dorchester Collection in the wake of the new Sharia laws.
Prior to the UKBAA’s statement tonight, one of its leading sponsors, Innovate UK, said that it was in discussions with the group about the issue.
"Businesses have got to be mindful of their own standards and their own reputation because what is happening in Brunei is appalling," said Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable.
Yesterday two calendar property events that were set to be hosted at the Brunei-owned hotels were relocated following the public pressure, and today real estate giant Knight Frank told City A.M. that it too is now looking for alternative locations for its annual client event on the South East office market.
One chief executive who runs a company which has its annual dinner at the hotel added: "We’re actively considering what we should do. We’re in a really difficult position on this one. There’s the moral issue – which I'm on side with – but the other issue is, if we all pull our dinner there, will it make a happen of difference to what the Sultan of Brunei does in his own country? All it does is affect every single worker in that hotel."
The news is the latest development in a boycott that escalated last week when high-profile celebrities such as George Clooney and Elton John called for the public to stop using rooms in the Sultan of Brunei’s international high-end hotels, which also includes the Beverly Hills Hotel in LA.
In a recent statement responding to the boycott, the Dorchester Collection said that it "emphasises equality, respect and integrity in all areas of our operation".
"Individuals and organisations of influence should be doing all they can to raise awareness of, and to stop, the atrocious treatment of homosexual people in Brunei. The boycott is a bold first step, and it’s great news that the UKBAA has chosen to change their venue," said Francesca Warner, chief executive of Diversity VC, a non-profit organisation which promotes diversity in venture capital investment.
"Lots of businesses are going to be looking long and hard at Brunei and the businesses they control, and they’ll do so until the government there adopts a position in line with being in the 21st century”," said Iain Anderson, executive chairman of Cicero Group.
Yesterday Deutsche Bank also became one of the first major financial heavyweights to support the boycott, announcing that it has banned its staff from staying in hotels of the Brunei-owned Dorchester Collection.