BHS sale my worst mis­take, says Green

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Front Page - By Rhi­an­non Curry

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

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