Quintessentially, a concierge company run by the co-chairman of the UK’s Conservative party, created the website of an international escort agency called Le Besoin and registered it to its London headquarters.
Founded by Ben Elliot, co-chairman of the Conservative party and a friend of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Quintessentially helped set up the website in 2013.
Advertising “discreet, superior escort services” in cities including London, New York and Moscow for “high-profile gentlemen”, Le Besoin — French for “The Need” — offered a “members’ only” group of “high class models”, according to a cached version of the website, which was taken down last year.
The website was registered to Quintessentially’s office in Portland Place, west London, in 2013. Chris Charalambous, then creative director of Quintessentially, used his business email to register the domain.
The escorting website was flagged to a member of Quintessentially’s management in 2018 after a security audit of its databases and websites, according to a person close to the matter.
Quintessentially said it had “created a website for a client launching a dating service”.
“After completion of the website and branding project within two months, we handed over the completed website to the client. Since that time we have had no further interaction with that client,” it said. “To suggest or infer there is any association is categorically untrue, misleading and damaging to our reputation.”
Mr Charalambous, who left Quintessentially in 2015, declined to comment.
Quintessentially has powerful connections across British society — including to Mr Elliot’s aunt, the Duchess of Cornwall — and offers wealthy clients “anything you want, anytime you want it, anywhere you want it” as well as access to exclusive events, including at Downing Street and Windsor Castle.
The company has been scrutinised over a £1.4m contract with the UK government to introduce Whitehall officials to wealthy individuals. The government has said all proper processes were followed when the contract was awarded.
In March, the Financial Times also revealed that Quintessentially’s founders, Mr Elliot, Aaron Simpson and Paul Drummond, had settled a lawsuit brought by two former female employees who accused them of financial mismanagement and creating a hostile working culture. Quintessentially denied all of the allegations, describing its culture as “so far from macho” and said the dispute had been resolved fully.