Former chancellor George Osborne misses out on Royal Opera House top job

18 August 2020, 16:22 | Updated: 18 August 2020, 16:31

Former chancellor George Osborne misses out on Royal Opera House top job
Former chancellor George Osborne misses out on Royal Opera House top job. Picture: PA/Getty

By Maddy Shaw Roberts

Carphone Warehouse founder and National Portrait Gallery chair, David Ross, beat Osborne to the position at London’s great Covent Garden venue.

George Osborne, former Chancellor of the Exchequer, has missed out on the role of chairman at the Royal Opera House.

The Covent Garden arts venue, which has been struggling under coronavirus lockdown, has instead appointed the co-founder of Carphone Warehouse, David Ross.

Ross was chosen over the former chancellor, who reduced the UK’s deficit under David Cameron’s government from 2010 to 2016, from a shortlist by the nominations committee. He will be succeeding the late Ian Taylor as chairman.

In July, chief executive Alex Beard announced the ROH would be officially axing its entire team of casual staff. The move was part of a restructure the company has taken in the face of financial pressures by the pandemic, which saw the venue close in March and music director Antonio Pappano waive his salary.

Beard told The Stage: “The scale of financial pressure on the ROH, alongside the continued restrictions on our ability to perform to live audiences, has resulted in this very difficult and sad decision.”

It is hoped Ross’s appointment will help the great opera venue, which is the largest single employer of artists in the UK culture sector, to recover from a very difficult period.

The Royal Opera House has struggled under coronavirus lockdown
The Royal Opera House has struggled under coronavirus lockdown. Picture: Getty

Ross, who co-founded The Carphone Warehouse Group in 1991, is also currently serving as Chair of the Board at the National Portrait Gallery.

In 2006, the arts enthusiast founded the David Ross Foundation, through which he has given a £6.5m loan to Nevill Holt Opera, the opera house he set up in his back garden in 2018. The foundation has also created educational initiatives and supported organisations helping young people.

Read more: Watch exclusive Classic FM Sessions filmed at the National Portrait Gallery >

Insiders have suggested to the The Sunday Times that Ross will be able to support the venue with his own money, as well as bring in wealthy donors through his extensive contact list.

Ross said: “I am passionate about creating opportunities for all and ensuring that everyone can enjoy our great cultural institutions, artists and musicians.

“So, I am honoured to be appointed to lead the Board of Trustees at an institution as well regarded as the Royal Opera House and will continue the fantastic success achieved by my predecessors.

“In particular I want to focus on building upon the great education programmes that have been put in place to bring the arts to children across the country.”

David Ross and former girlfriend, Saffron Aldridge
David Ross and former girlfriend, Saffron Aldridge. Picture: Getty

Ross also praised ‘Open Up’, an initiative taken by the Royal Opera House to develop the great venue and open it up to the wider public, through new front-of-house spaces, and new café, bar and restaurant areas.

“The Open Up project has provided a wonderful foundation for the future and I look forward to continuing this tremendous work and maintaining the Royal Opera House's position at the heart of British cultural life, as we steer a course through the undoubted challenges ahead.”

Speaking about the Chair’s appointment, CEO Alex Beard said: “David Ross is a passionate supporter of the arts and has overseen significant change in his time as Chair at the National Portrait Gallery.

“David’s commitment to education stands out in particular, and we welcome his insight at time of change for ROH and indeed the whole of society.”