Leeds Pride axes sponsorship deal over allegations of business founder’s racism

Leeds Pride has ended a sponsorship deal with Conservative donor Frank Hester’s Leeds-based firm after the businessman allegedly made racist comments about MP Diane Abbott.

Leeds Pride event organisers confirmed they were “discontinuing” their partnership with The Phoenix Partnership (TPP) – which is a healthcare technology provider.

Hester, founder of TPP, is reported to have said Abbott made him “want to hate all black women” and “should be shot”.

Last month West Yorkshire Police said it was investigating Hester’s comments, allegedly made during a meeting at his company’s Leeds HQ in 2019, to assess whether “a crime has been committed”.

Leeds Pride explained it was “imperative it reassess its association” with Hester.

A statement on the event’s social media notes: “The decision to terminate the sponsorship agreement underscores the organisation’s dedication to upholding the values of diversity within the LGBTQ+ community and beyond.”

Hester, who gave the Conservative Party £10m last year, has previously apologised for his comments, which were first reported by The Guardian newspaper last month.

He admitted to making “rude” comments about Abbott but stressed they “had nothing to do with her gender nor colour of skin.”

Leeds Pride will return to the city this year on Sunday 21 July and a record 70,000 people are expected to attend.