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Restaurant entrepreneur Mario Batali is stepping aside from his business interests, including his public association with NY food emporium Eataly, after sexual misconduct allegations.

US magazine Eater reported earlier on Monday that four women have accused Mr Batali of touching them inappropriately over a span at least two decades.

The celebrity chef, best known for his orange Crocs and TV shows, did not deny the allegations – which range from groping to forcing one of women to straddle him, saying the claims “match up with ways I have acted”.

“I apologize to the people I have mistreated and hurt,” he said in an emailed statement. “Although the identities of most of the individuals mentioned in these stories have not been revealed to me, much of the behavior described does, in fact, match up with ways I have acted. That behavior was wrong and there are no excuses. I take full responsibility and am deeply sorry for any pain, humiliation or discomfort I have caused to my peers, employees, customers, friends and family.”

A source at Italy- headquartered group Eataly confirmed the report, adding that Mr Batali had never had an operational role within the group.

Mr Batali has a minority stake in Eataly US. He has been an intrinsic part of the branding of Eataly’s flagship store in NY, the group’s most lucrative since it opened in 2010. Mr Batali’s name is not associated with any Eataly stores outside the US.

Oscar Farinetti, Eataly founder and majority shareholder, said he had no comment to make at this stage, speaking to the FT by phone from Hong Kong where he was on business.

Mr Farinetti said it was too early to comment on any possible impact on the business.

Executive chairman Andrea Guerra in an interview with the FT published on Sunday said the group, which has 40 stores, plans to IPO in Milan as early as next year.

(Photo: AP)

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