BHS sale my worst mistake, says Green
SIR PHILIP GREEN has said that selling BHS to businessman Dominic Chappell for £1 was the “worst mistake of his life” as he defended his behaviour over the retailer’s pensions scandal.
The BHS tycoon claimed he was taken in by Mr Chappell, who had presented himself as a plausible buyer for the retail chain in 2015.
“Clearly with what subse- quently occurred, I and our board were wholly misled by everyone involved with [Chappell]. Was it the worst mistake of my life? Yes, it was. Horrible. Ugly,” he said in an interview with The Mail on Sunday.
“You’ve got no idea how much front this guy has. More than Selfridges and Harrods put together. Those people who know me know there is no way on this planet this business would have been sold to him if I had even a millionth of a thought process he would do what he did.” BHS collapsed into administration in April 2016 on the back of falling sales, leav- ing a £571m pension deficit and the loss of 11,000 jobs.
According to the committee of MPs that investigated the business’s collapse, Mr Chappell showed “negligence and cavalier disregard for the risks and potential consequences” of buying a business with a growing pension deficit.
He was labelled “the most egregious example of individual greed” and found to have had “his fingers in the till”. Mr Chappell was later prosecuted for failing to provide information to the Pensions Regulator during its investigation into the sale of the business.
Although Sir Philip had effectively stepped away from the retailer when it was sold, he later paid £363m to end action against him by the Pensions Regulator, having faced calls to be stripped of his knighthood. “I wrote a
‘Clearly with what subsequently occurred, I and our board were misled’
cheque for £363m. But nobody has ever said, ‘this man behaved like a gentleman, his family behaved properly’. I’m not doing this as an act for you because you know it’s not my style – but I’m sad that there’s no acceptance of that,” he said.
“Fortunately, we were able to pay and rectify it. I was pleased we were able to resolve it.”
He said that he felt he had behaved “correctly” in paying the money, and while he is yet to win over many of his critics, he was recently cleared after an exhaustive investigation by the Insol- vency Service into whether he should be banned as a company director.
He added: “On the basis that I’ve paid [a cheque to the he pensioners], what am I supposed to o do? Take all my clothes off and say I’m skint?”
The legal bills to settle the BHS debacle alone e cost him £35m.
Sir Philip faced anger from pensioners when, in n the midst of BHS’s woes, he took delivery of a £100m 0m yacht and was pictured relaxing g with his wife Tina on the deck. But he defended his lifestyle. “I don’t think it’s grand living [on the yacht], I’m sorry. You’re saying I have been successful an and I should have to apologise for that?” he said.
“Other than bury myself, what should I do? I wasn’t trying to run away. Why should I hide? “Wherever I would have gone, I would have been harassed he added. He also revealed that he had had a major heart operation five days before he had appeared at the parliamentary select committee. There, he faced questions from Frank Field, an MP whom he described as having a “personal vendetta” against him. “He was on the rampage,” Sir Philip said.
The committee concluded that the blame for BHS’s failure was largely Sir Philip’s responsibility, calling him “the unacceptable face of capitalism”.
The retail billionaire said he would not encourage his children Chloe, 27, or Brandon, 26, to follow in his footsteps, because of “all the legacy and history of where we are”. He did not reveal any immediate plans to step down from the helm of his Arcadia empire.
Living it up: Sir Philip Green’s luxury yacht Lionheart. Below, with pal Naomi Campbell