The 20-year-old son of Boohoo’s £1.6million-a-year chief executive was found dead in his bed after taking a morphine overdose during lockdown, an inquest has heard.
Louis Lyttle, the son of fast fashion chain boss John Lyttle, died at the family’s £1.9million mansion near Sevenoaks, Kent, it emerged today.
He was discovered unresponsive and not breathing after failing to get up for work at 5am on Monday, April 20.
Galway-born Louis, who is understood to have worked for his Irish father at Boohoo, was pronounced dead by paramedics at 6.20am. He is survived by his parents John and Clodagh, and two sisters, Laura and Kate.
An inquest into his death of Mr Lyttle opened at County Hall in Maidstone, Kent, with the cause of death given as morphine toxicity.
According to his LinkedIn profile, Louis was a former pupil at the £27,000-a-year King’s School in Canterbury, studied business management at Cardiff University and also worked at Boohoo since July last year.
His father, a marathon enthusiast who helped run Primark before moving to Boohoo in 2019, travels from Sevenoaks to the company’s headquarters in Manchester by train to work through the week, and his digital marketer son may have regularly travelled with him.
Mr Lyttle has recently been dealing with a crisis at Boohoo over claims that clothes made for the fast fashion firm were produced in Leicester sweatshops throughout lockdown by staff paid just £3.50 per hour, below the minimum wage, and without adequate PPE.
Louis Lyttle, the son of fast fashion chain boss John Lyttle, died at home near Sevenoaks in April after an overdose, an inquest has heard
Mr Lyttle died in the family’s £1.9million mansion (pictured) near the stockbroker town of Sevenoaks in Kent
Louis is believed to work for Boohoo, according to his LinkedIn, and was found unresponsive after failing to get up for work
A friend of the family told MailOnline today: ‘We’re all devastated to hear this has happened to their beautiful son, Louis. We had heard he had died during lockdown but had no idea of the circumstances. It’s just so sad.’
The richest shopkeeper you’ve never heard of: Who is Boohoo CEO John Lyttle?
John Lyttle, 51, was born in Ireland and after leaving school joined Primark as a trainee store manager.
He rose through the ranks to the role of head of buying before joining the Arcadia Group as buying director.
Mr Lyttle then worked at Matalan for five years as trading director before returning to Primark in 2010.
He oversaw sales rocket to over £7billion in his role as chief operating officer.
When he was appointed chief executive of Boohoo its executive chairman Mahmud Kamani described himself as ‘thrilled’ to have him on board.
He described himself as a keen runner in a recent interview, but showed the scale of his ambition at the clothing company.
Mr Lyttle said: ‘We might have started in the UK market. But really what we want to be is truly a global player’
A full inquest hearing into Louis’ death has now been adjourned until September 24, coroner Alan Blunsdon said.
Louis was born in Galway, Ireland and his occupation was confirmed as digital marketer at Boohoo. Before this, he reportedly interned at banking company, Investec, and health insurers, Religare, according to LinkedIn.
His father John, who was previously Primark’s chief operating officer for a decade after top jobs at Matalan and Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia Group, has declined to comment on the death of his son.
He started out in retail having left school school in Ireland and joined Primark as a trainee store manager. His main hobby is running and he has completed six marathons.
Mr Lyttle is married to Clodagh from Kilworth, County Cork. They met while they were both working as buyers for Primark in Dublin in the 1990s.
As he rose up the career ladder, they relocated to the UK before coming back to Primark HQ in Dublin for a second stint when he sat on the board.
A former colleague said Lyttle was known as the ‘silent assassin’ while working for Primark as a big part of his job to fire people.
‘But on a one to one, he was a very nice guy. Himself and Clodagh are a lovely couple and very strong together’, he said.
The Lyttle family live in Sevenoaks, Kent, one of the wealthiest commuter towns in the UK famed for its leafy roads packed with mansions owned by traders, bankers, lawyers and other highly-paid professionals working in London.
It also has a number of celebrity residents, including Gloria Hunniford.
Mr Lyttle has been forced to launch a review of the company’s UK supply chain following allegations that clothes made for Boohoo were produced in Leicester sweatshops by staff paid below the minimum wage during lockdown.
Boohoo had more than £1.3billion wiped from its share value in two days this month when retailers such as Next and Asos dropped its clothing from their websites.
He was brought into Boohoo in March 2019 and was said to collect a near £1.6million a year for the role.
The Offaly-born exec is on a salary of £615,000, but his contract also allows an annual bonus of up to £900,000. A further £50million bonus is on offer if he can push the company’s value from £2billion to £5billion.
But Boohoo’s share price has tanked by £1.40 to £2.66 after it was stung by the Leicester sweat-shop scandal.
At the start of lockdown there was further woe for the company, founded in Manchester by Mahmud Kamani.
Staff including models, photographers, makeup artists and stylists were told to come into work after their bosses said it was ‘business as usual’, a whistleblower claimed. One source said those who stayed away were threatened with a pay cut.
One insider told the Telegraph: ‘Boohoo has advised staff to observe the two metre separation rule.
‘However, that is impossible to achieve due to the nature of the work.
‘The company is still profit-driven and not standing with the rest of the country in the effort to reduce the rate of infection.’
Louis was a former pupil at the King’s School in Canterbury, studied business management at Cardiff University and also worked at Boohoo since July last year
Louis, who is understood to have worked for his father John (pictured) at Boohoo, was pronounced dead by paramedics at 6.20am on April 20
While the company has already said it had found no evidence of the small hourly payment, it did confirm it discovered two of its suppliers had not complied with its code of conduct. Their contracts have now been terminated.
Some workers at the Leicester factory were allegedly paid £3.50 an hour – well below the £8.72 minimum wage for 25s and over – while also failing to offer protection from coronavirus.
Mr Lyttle has said the claims – if true – are ‘totally unacceptable’ and has promised to take action.
He has launched an ‘immediate and independent’ review of the company’s UK supply chain, and is also looking to build a ‘model factory’ to ensure workers are treated fairly.
In addition, Mr Lyttle has written to Home Secretary Priti Patel, urging the Government to establish a licensing scheme for UK-based textile manufacturers.
The National Crime Agency is investigating the city’s garment industry and has visited premises to investigate ‘concerns of modern slavery and human trafficking’.
Boohoo sources a large percentage of its clothing from Leicester.
Home Secretary Priti Patel called the claims against fast-fashion suppliers in the city ‘truly appalling’ and promised action.
Factory workers at Faiza Fashion in Leicester – where Boohoo and PLT clothing is allegedly made – operate their sewing machines despite the risk of contracting Covid-19
‘Staff working in sweatshops during lockdown, paid below the minimum wage and fined for smiling’: Scandals that have rocked fast fashion behemoth Boohoo
Boohoo has become a fashion phenomenon – now worth £3billion, but en route to becoming one of the UK’s most popular brands it has been stung by a series of scandals in recent years.
Last month the fast fashion brand came under fire following an article which alleged that workers in a Leicester factory making clothes for the company were being paid as little as £3.50 an hour.
The report said the factory, which displayed the Jaswal Fashions signage, was also operating during the local coronavirus lockdown without additional health measures in place.
In 2018 a Financial Times investigation found evidence of dangerous working conditions, undisclosed subcontracting and people paid below the minimum wage.
In 2017 employees working for Boohoo.com allegedly risked getting fired for smiling or checking their mobile phones, an investigation by Channel 4 found.
Boohoo founder Mahmud Kamani, pictured right, alongside his son Umar, who helped them set up Pretty Little Thing. Their supply chains and working conditions have come under scrutiny
The conditions are an open secret, or rather, Leicester’s ‘dirty secret’ and were investigated by Dispatches.
They found factories making clothes for River Island, New Look, Boohoo and Missguided were paying workers as little as £3 an hour in conditions that fell short of health and safety standards.
And an inquiry by Parliament’s Human Rights Commission three years ago found that between a third and three quarters working in these factories were paid below minimum wage and were working in unsafe environments.
Most are from minority ethnic groups, with around 33.6 per cent born outside the UK.
In the programme Kieron Hardman a former Boohoo team leader alleged: ‘In one instance, I received an email to ask me if I could give somebody a strike because somebody was smiling.’
Liana Wood, an employment lawyer, said of the undercover reporting: ‘If that individual is 1 minute late and they have to work 14 minutes unpaid, then that is potentially unauthorised deduction from wages.’
The charity Labour Behind the Label has accused Boohoo of failing to do enough to monitor conditions at factories in Leicester.
The retailer said it would look into the claims but insisted it had ‘followed and adhered to all aspects of [Government] guidance’.
Boohoo was founded in 2006 by Mahmud Kamani and Carol Kane and the company is now worth more than £3billion.
Before Boohoo shot onto the ever-growing fast fashion scene, its owner Mr Kamani, 55, sold handbags in traders’ stall.
He spotted the potential of internet sales and set up his online retailer in 2006 with the aim of delivering their own-branded fashion at rock bottom prices.
The company started out with just three staff and operated out of a Manchester warehouse.