The Daily Telegraph discloses the great ticket scandal once again
Two trustees of the Royal Albert Hall and their families profited from the sale of hundreds of debenture-seat tickets for concerts and charity events at hugely inflated prices, it has been reported.
Leon Baroukh, an Oxford-educated writer and Richard Waterbury, chairman of pensions at a chemicals firm, and their families made up to £100,000 a year from the sale of seats, it was claimed. Relatives of the two trustees sold tickets for profit through agents on the secondary market, The Times reported.
The newspaper claimed it had purchased tickets for a charity concert on Wednesday by Roger Daltrey, the lead singer of The Who and Paul Weller, the singer, in aid of the Teenage Cancer Trust.
Two of Mr Waterbury’s stalls tickets, with a face value of £50 each, were sold for £299.99 each plus fees, it claimed. Mr Waterbury said he sold the tickets to an agent for about £65 each.
Meanwhile, tickets allocated to Mr Baroukh’s father for the same concert were sold for £102.27 each. Mr Baroukh said that he, and his relatives, did not sell tickets “directly” and that debenture holders were entitled to resell.
But politicians and music industry figures condemned box-holders for selling on tickets, claiming the practice was an abuse of their position.
The disclosures come after the Royal Albert Hall was warned in January about allowing members and trustees to sell tickets at hugely inflated prices to key events.
According to the Charity Commission, the industry watchdog, a charity must only allow members to enjoy private benefits that are "incidental to its public function".
Due to a spike in interest at the Hall over recent years, members stand to make considerable sums by selling back unwanted tickets through an official return scheme, which is legal.
Documents seen by the newspaper claimed the two families are the Hall's biggest seat-owners. The third-largest debenture holder is the Queen, with 20.
Her box is used to host the Royal Family and guests, while some tickets go to charity with the remainder available to staff of the Royal Household on application.
Mr Baroukh, 34, and his family own 51 seats, ten of them through a ticket company whose five directors include his parents, Frank and Elaine and two siblings Daniella and Benjamin, The Times said.
They have a 12-person private box in the Albert Hall's Grand Tier, which has one of the “best views in the house”. The remainder are seats in the stalls.
Mr Waterbury, who works at the Dutch paint firm Akzo-Nobel, and his wife, two daughters and elderly parents own a total of 29 seats and he said that each makes £3,500 to £4,000 a year, the equivalent of more than £100,000 in total.
The 65 year-old added that many of his tickets were used by his two daughters and for entertaining with the remainder either being returned or sold to an agent, whom he did not name.
He defended the practice because an official ticket-return scheme earned seat-holders "peanuts", as resale profits were pooled and did not award adequate rates of return to holders of the best seats.
He further claimed he needed to recoup an annual charge for each seat, which was more than £1,000. Mr Waterbury said tickets are often sold online months before they are delivered to members.
"This is an investment," he told the newspaper. "If something has value, you have got to expect a return. We are making back money."
Mr Baroukh said that only two of his six seats were sold at above-face value for the Teenage Cancer Trust concert and that other family seats are independently owned.
The Times also reported that some of the seats owned by Mr Baroukh and his family were also advertised at “inflated prices” for the charitable Mountbatten Festival of Music next month.
Proceeds for that event are due to go to CLIC Sargent, the children's cancer charity, and the Royal Marines Charitable Trust Fund.
Mr Baroukh said that he and his relatives do not sell tickets “directly”, insisting that debenture holders were entitled to resell. He earned "substantially less than £100,000" a year personally.
He told The Times: "The seats are a passive, modestly yielding long-term investment.
“You are surely aware that members [seat-holders] saw decades of net negative returns until relatively recently when their cash injections and careful stewardship finally bore fruit.”
The Teenage Cancer Trust said the only people entitled to profit “from our event are young people with cancer”.
A spokesman said: “We strongly believe it is wrong for individuals to hijack our efforts and personally profit by selling tickets on the secondary market.
“An incredible amount of hard work and goodwill goes into organising concerts … and this includes the artists who all give their time for free.”
The Charity Commission said that it would review evidence while the Royal Albert Hall said it was treating the issue “as a matter of priority”.
The Commission said: "This is a highly unusual case, which raises complex legal issues for the charity's trustees and for us as regulator."
Peta Travis, president of the Hall, added: "The Hall's governance and nominations committee have been addressing the issue as a matter of priority."
She declined to answer questions from The Times about whether officials were aware of the scale of touting by trustees.
The 19th-century venue has benefited from a £40 million lottery grant, receives tax breaks due to its charitable status and is to launch a fund-raising drive to pay for £37 million of refurbishments.
Source: Telegraph on line