It was all in the best possible taste, says billionaire who threw £5m party

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Philip Green was clearly feeling a little bit tender, not to mention a tad defensive, as he and his guests flew home from his 50th birthday extravaganza last night. "It wasn't gaudy or horrible or ugly," the billionaire owner of British Home Stores insisted curtly.

For a man who could afford to spend £5m on a lavishly colourful event featuring Rod Stewart, male dancers, models in leather hotpants and guests in togas, he appeared irritated by suggestions in some quarters of the media that his bash was an "orgy of excess".

"The party was beautifully done and a fabulous success. It was a lot of fun," he insisted as he and his guests waited to take off from Cyprus for their return trip to Luton airport.

It may have been described as "the party to end all parties" but yesterday it was all over bar the hangovers. "I am just feeling a little bit tired," the tycoon admitted. "My guests are recuperating."

Mr Green, who left school at 16 and is now said to earn close to £100,000 an hour, certainly appeared less than bashful when he was busy organising the three-day event.

The entrepreneur threw caution – and some might say taste – to the wind to ensure that his guests had the "best weekend of their lives". Two hundred of his closest friends, including the former racing driver Stirling Moss, the actor Kevin Costner, Prince Albert of Monaco, and former model, Jilly Johnson, boarded a privately chartered and redecorated Airbus A300 at Luton on Thursday night, unaware of their final destination.

They were flown to Cyprus where the Greens had taken over the five-star Anassa Hotel in Polis. On Friday night, guests were entertained at a Black and White ball and the main event was a toga party on Saturday night. The guests – instructed to turn up in nothing more modest than white underwear – were handed costumes by Roman centurions.

Mr Green, said to have made the fastest £1bn in British corporate history, had chosen to take on the character of Nero himself, although it was unclear whether his wife had opted to portray the fiddling Emperor's first wife, Octavia, or second, Poppaea.

As well as Rod Stewart, who was reportedly paid £750,000 for a 45-minute performance, the entertainment included Tom Jones, Earth Wind and Fire and George Benson.

Meanwhile, Green's wife, Tina, 52, organised a special surprise in the shape of Michael Aspel and his famous This Is Your Life red book.

Those unlucky enough to miss the event – Bruce Willis, Sylvester Stallone and former England football manager Terry Venables – sent their greetings by video link.

By all accounts, it was a considerably more lavish affair than most of Mr Green's customers might expect to host on their half century.

The flowers cost £50,000, the caviar £35,000 and the champagne was Cristal 1995.

The birthday cake, a 150kg 4ft sq number, was carried into the party by four male dancers from the Dream Boys.

It had been, as the businessman promised, "a night to remember" and, of course, it was all carried out in the best possible taste.