Who is Tony Danker? CBI boss sacked over misconduct claims

CBI boss Tony Danker was sacked with immediate effect last week after allegations of misconduct rocked the influential business group.

In his first interview since his firing, Mr Danker told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Wednesday his reputation had been “totally destroyed” following sexual misconduct allegations – claiming he had been made a “fall guy” by the business body.

Below we take a look at who exactly the former CBI director general is, what the allegations made against him are, and what he has said in response.

Former CBI chief Tony Danker with Rishi Sunak at the CBI annual conference in 2022


Who is Tony Danker?

Mr Danker was appointed to the top job at the CBI – Britain’s biggest business lobbying group – in 2020, joining from non-profit organisation Be the Business, a collaboration between the government and some of the UK’s biggest companies.

Prior to that, he had spent seven years as chief strategy officer for Guardian News & Media – the company behind the newspaper of the same name.

He had previously worked as a consultant and as policy adviser in the Cabinet Office and Treasury during Gordon Brown’s time as prime minister.

His first job after leaving the University of Manchester was working for the former Chief Rabbi, the late Lord Jonathan Sacks.

Born in 1971 in Belfast, Mr Danker now lives in London and is married, with two sons.

The CBI is one of the most influential business groups in the country. It represents around 190,000 businesses across the UK, which between them employ nearly seven million people.

The power of the group is clearly visible when looking at the events it hosts throughout the year. Prime ministers, Bank of England governors, leaders of the opposition, the Archbishop of Canterbury and even US Secretary of State John Kerry have spoken at events hosted by the group.

Mr Danker was appointed to the top job at the CBI in 2020, joining from non-profit organisation Be the Business, a collaboration between the Government and some of the UK’s biggest companies

(PA Wire)

What are the allegations that have rocked the CBI?

Early last month Mr Danker stepped aside from his role as CBI director general after a woman employed by the group accused him of making unwanted contact that she said amounted to sexual harassment.

A month after that report was published, the Guardian said that it had been approached by more than a dozen women who claim to be victims of sexual misconduct by senior figures at the CBI. One said that she had been raped at a staff party on a boat in the Thames. Many of these predated Mr Danker’s time at the CBI.

What has happened since?

Since the first allegations were published in early March, the CBI has launched an investigation into its culture, run by an external law firm.

According to reports, ministers and senior officials from government departments have suspended engagement with the CBI, and questions have been raised over the future of the group.

Police launched an investigation into the various allegations of sexual misconduct at the organisation.

What has been Tony Danker’s response?

In his first interview since his firing, Mr Danker told the BBC his name had been wrongly associated with separate claims.

He also told the broadcaster his termination letter had cited four reasons for his dismissal: For organising a secret and private karaoke party for 15 people, for viewing the Instagram accounts of CBI staff, for sending non-work related messages to staff and for inviting junior staff to breakfasts, lunches or one-on-one meetings.

While Mr Danker acknowledged he had made some staff feel “very uncomfortable” and he apologised for that, the former CBI boss insisted he had “never used sexually suggestive language with people” at the company.

Mr Danker believed he had been assigned as “the fall guy” for a wider crisis engulfing the lobby group which is facing a number of claims – some of which predated Mr Danker’s time at CBI.

Mr Danker said his reputation had been “totally trashed” because other claims which don’t relate to him – which included drug use as well as serious sexual assault – emerged a matter of weeks after the CBI disclosed that it was looking into separate allegations of misconduct against him.

He admitted to messaging around 200 individual staff members at the company but insisted it was to try and build “rapport” during lockdown and with colleagues who continued to work from home.

Detective Chief Superintendent Richard Waight earlier confirmed the City of London Police approached CBI following media reports of misconduct, but investigations were still at a “very early stage”.

The former CBI boss has responded to his dismissal by saying the allegations against him had been “distorted”.

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