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Conservative-Donating Government Trade Advisor David Meller a ‘Nasty Piece of Work’ Who ‘Encouraged Workplace Bullying’ of his Son 

“The way David Meller speaks about his own family members when they are not around shows his true colours”

David Meller. Photo:
David Meller. Photo:

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Government trade advisor and Conservative donor David Meller has been labelled a “nasty piece of work” after he repeatedly encouraged the workplace “bullying” of his own son for being lazy, in a secret recording obtained by Byline Times.

During the conversation Meller – who was given a CBE for “services to education” in 2018 – can be heard telling a partner in his company that he wanted Jonathan Meller, who he employed, to be “given a hard time”.

Speaking about the recording, one of Meller’s former colleagues, who asked not to be identified, said: “The way David Meller speaks about his own family members when they are not around shows his true colours. He is a nasty piece of work.”

Lawyers for Meller said: “There is nothing ‘nasty’…in wanting a son embarking on their career to face adversity. Such an experience is key to achieving success in Mr Meller’s opinion.”


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As a long-standing Conservative Party supporter, Meller won Covid contracts worth £164 million at the height of the pandemic after being referred to the ‘VIP Lane’ by his political ally Michael Gove. Last September, he was elevated by Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch to the Board of Trade where he advises the government on economic matters.

However, in an ongoing court case, the multi-millionaire businessman’s professional practices have since come under scrutiny. 

They include how he has a “penchant” for deleting business emails, and once attempted to “secretly” take £100,000 that belonged to his business partner, the wealthy financier and fellow Conservative donor, Michael Sherwood.

Meller’s personal conduct and relationships have now come under the microscope, after he was caught on tape asking Collins, a fellow director in one of his property investment firms, to “bully” his son, Jonathan.


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According to the recording, which was deployed in court as part of a litigation action brought by Meller against his former business T&P Real Estate Ltd, Meller asked Collins to give Jonathan some money because he was due to get married to his girlfriend, Charlotte, adding: “And I don’t want to be fucking paying.”

The case had previously heard how Jonathan, who is a minor shareholder in one of his father’s investment companies, had in the past conducted business on his father’s behalf, despite not yet being 30 at the time to which the litigation relates. 

Meller told Collins that he was not “asking [him] to subsidise Jonny’s life”.

After Collins asked Meller how he should be treating Jonathan, Meller replied: “I want him to graft. I want you to give him a hard time. I want you to bully him.”

Meller, who claims he is owed £1.4 million by T&P Real Estate following the failure of one deal, for which there was no written contract in place, was approached for comment.

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Guy Harper, on behalf of Meller, said his client had invested in the project “in large part to support his son, as he embarked on a property development career”. 

Mr Harper added: “Mr Meller did not ‘ask Mr Collins to give Jonathan some money because he was due to get married’ as you wrongly allege. 

“Mr Meller pointed out to Mr Collins that Jonathan was supposed to benefit from the project (Jonathan was working on the project at the time) and made clear that ‘I am not asking you to subsidise [Jonathan]’. 

“As the recording shows, in response to Mr Collins’ attempt to criticise Jonathan, Mr Meller said that he wanted him to ‘graft’ and experience ‘a hard time’, in order to ‘get him motivated [and] incentivised’.  

“There is nothing ‘nasty’, as you seek to suggest, in wanting a son embarking on their career to face adversity. Such an experience is key to achieving success in Mr Meller’s opinion.”

This is not the first time Meller’s personal conduct has been called into question. 

In January 2018, shortly after being awarded a CBE, Meller was forced to stand down from the Department for Education’s board of directors following a sexual harassment scandal surrounding the Presidents Club, of which he was joint chairman.

The scandal centred around its “secretive” black-tie dinner, compèred by comedian David Walliams and which hosted a number of high-profile figures, including former government minister Nadhim Zahawi, who was a guest on Meller’s table. 

Jonathan Meller, himself a Presidents Club committee member, was on a table sponsored by one of his businesses, alongside West Ham United’s owner David Sullivan. There is no suggestion the allegations related to Meller, his son, Zahawi, or Mr Sullivan.

Alongside the unfolding court case, which will come to trial in the new year, Byline Times has previously reported on Meller’s rise through business and finance, which won him access to the world of politics, and the Conservative government.

It also allowed him to become a long-standing ally of its grandees Gove – who he supported for the party leadership in 2016, donating £3,250 to his unsuccessful campaign – and Zahawi, among other prominent politicians.

Jonathan has also benefited from his father’s business dealings and political links. As The Guardian reported in February, Jonathan organised for Gove to attend a QPR match as a VIP in the owner’s box in August 2021.


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David Meller did not respond to The Guardian’s request for comment and Jonathan Meller told the paper he had no recollection of going to the match with Gove and declined to comment further. 

Gove, then still minister for the Cabinet Office which had awarded Meller’s fashion products company the PPE contracts following Gove’s referral in May 2020, failed to register the hospitality, and subsequently apologised, saying it had been an “oversight”.

Jonathan’s mother, Wendy Susan Frumkes, is the daughter of Herbert M. Frumkes of New York, former president of Tradex Brokerage Service Inc.

Byline Times will continue to cover the case, which will go to trial in January.

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