Welcome to Yorkshire has appointed a new chief executive eight months after Sir Gary Verity resigned from the position after questions were raised about his expenses and bullying.
The tourism board for the county, which also runs the Tour de Yorkshire, has been blighted by Verity’s resignation and news of financial difficulty.
James Mason, a former chief operating officer of Bradford City Football Club and BBC journalist, has been appointed as the new CEO and admits the organisation will need to “regain trust and rebuild relationships.”
Mason said: “I’m looking forward to working with the team at Welcome to Yorkshire to continue to build this county’s reputation as the best place in the world to visit, live and work. I know the organisation has been through a challenging period and I understand the need for transparency going forward.
“I have every confidence that by working together and with the support of our partners and stakeholders, we can regain trust and rebuild relationships. Looking forward there are opportunities for digital growth and to engage with the Yorkshire community across the world to really showcase the county’s modern-day diversity.
“Welcome to Yorkshire and Yorkshire as a whole has a hugely exciting future. I really can’t wait to get started.”
Troubled started for Welcome to Yorkshire, a privately-run organisation that has received millions in public in funding, when Sir Gary Verity had resigned amid an investigation into his behaviour towards staff and his expenses.
Verity, a key figure in bringing the Tour to France to the UK in 2014 and then founding the Tour de Yorkshire, was discovered to have used £25,800 of expenses for personal items without business justification.
An independent investigation, carried out by accountancy firm BDO, was unable to establish whether £900,000 worth of expenses claimed over six years were “reasonable” due to a lack of transparent spending rules.
Verity voluntarily repaid £25,000 to the organisation.
A former personal assistant to Verity, Annie Drew, said he would “shout, scream, swear and throw things sometimes at people”. She also claimed she was asked to make expense claims in her name on his behalf – an allegation that has been strongly denied.
Then earlier this month, news emerged that Welcome to Yorkshire has just 12 months to repay a £500,000 loan given to them by a local council.
According to the Yorkshire Post, without the loan Welcome to Yorkshire (WTY) would have run out of money in September and staff would have been left unpaid. The loan was secured against a £1 million property in York owned by WTY and has to be repaid by November 2020.
On the new appointment, chair of Welcome to Yorkshire Peter Box said: “James is a passionate and proud Yorkshireman. He’ll be a hands-on CEO with strong values and integrity who brings with him a wealth of experience in business, marketing and public relations and will be a huge advocate not only for the organisation but for the country.
“This is a new start for Welcome to Yorkshire and, as chair, I’m very much looking forward to working with James to build on the organisation’s fantastic foundations and together with the team, lead us into a new and exciting future.”