8 questions Sir Philip Green failed to answer from MPs about the BHS collapse

Sir Philip tried to exert control over the hearing at every turn

Hazel Sheffield
Wednesday 15 June 2016 17:38 BST
Philip Green apologise to BHS

Sir Philip Green, the Arcadia retail tycoon, struggled to control his temper during a marathon six hours of questioning from MPs over the collapse of BHS.

MPs on the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee tried to work out why Sir Philip sold the British high street stalwart to Dominic Chappell, a former racing driver and bankrupt, who drove the store to collapse in a year.

Their biggest victory was getting Sir Philip to agree to sort out the pensions "mess" that he left behind when the sale went through for £1 in March 2015.

Sir Philip vowed to address the £571 million pension deficit that affects 20,000 former and current staff. The issue has now been passed on to the Pension Protection Fund at a cost of £275 million.

Elsewhere, MPs struggled as Sir Philip tried to exert control over the hearing at every turn.

He frequently interrupted with his own agenda and asked himself questions. At one point he snapped at Richard Fuller MP for staring at him.

Mr Iain Wright MP, who chairs the Committee, said that Sir Philip's “thin-skinned” approach might raise corporate governance issues, if his directors felt unable to raise issues about the sale of BHS.

"We're asking the questions," Mr Wright reminded him. But they didn't always get the answers. He are eight that Sir Philip successfully dodged.

1. Did former bankrupt Dominic Chappell get his hands on BHS because Sir Philip took bad advice?

Richard Fuller MP pointed out that Mr Chappell’s term sheet appeared to have £120 million in funding, when it actually only had £40 million. He asked how Mr Chappell slipped through anyway.

Sir Philip said that he didn’t get involved in the sale to Chappell until it had been approved by his advisers.

“So is it fair to say at that wrong’un slipped through because you relied on advisers?” Mr Fuller asked.

“That’s your observation,” Sir Phil replied.

2. Will Sir Philip work with Goldman Sachs again?

The investment bank advised Sir Philip on the Dominic Chappell deal.

Asked if he would still have sold the business to Mr Chappell if Goldman Sachs had not given their approval, Sir Philip replies: “A million times no!”

But he refuses to answer when asked if he would deal with Goldman again.

3. What is Project Thor?

Project Thor is the plan Sir Philip drew up to address the BHS pension deficit about six months before the chain was sold.

The plan was later withdrawn.

Sir Philip offered to take MPs on a trip through BHS financial history to explain how Project Thor came about, to which they asked if he could just explain this one aspect in isolation.

“I’m offering to explain it you but won’t let me!” he said.

Project Thor is the plan Sir Philip drew up to address the BHS pension deficit about six months before the chain was sold.

The plan was later withdrawn.

4. Did Sir Philip know about pension deficit as far back as 2012?

This is suggested by Richard Graham MP, who says that Sir Philip met with the pensions minister Steve Webb in 2012 to discuss reducing the BHS pension levy.

Green said that he could not remember a meeting that long ago.

Then he lashed out at Graham again, saying: “Which bit of don’t remember do you find difficult?”

5. When did Sir Philip meet with BHS pension fund trustees?

Karen Buck MP wants to know. She tries to get Sir Philip to say when these meetings took place but he can’t remember, claiming that MPs can’t expect him to remember a meeting that he had eight years ago.

Buck politely replied that if she had been called to give evidence, she might have checked when they had taken place.

6. How much was BHS paying into its pension fund?

Sir Philip didn’t answer this because he said he was never made aware of the figures, or so he claimed. He said he wasn’t involved in the BHS pension until 2012.

Between 2000 and 2012, Sir Philip said the pension scheme was “not on my table”.

Frank Field MP said he was surprised Sir Philip didn’t know, given the impression of him as a “Napolean of industry” with control of everything.

Sir Philip looked hurt at this and said: “I’ve never tried to run away.”

But we never got any closer to those pension contributions.

7. Did Philip Green sell BHS for £1 to get himself off the hook for the £571 million pensions deficit?

MP Richard Graham suggests Sir Philip sold BHS to get rid of the pension liability after Project Thor was unsuccessful.

Sir Philip isn’t having it. “That’s very rude. Withdraw that,” he says.

Not long after, he comes up with the baffling phrase: “If you look out of the window, is the sky light or dark?”

8. Why did Philip Green decide not to sell Marylebone House to Dominic Chappell?

He actually sold the BHS headquarters, which were owned by his wife’s Wilton Equity, to Arcadia, netting millions for Lady Green.

But he didn’t say that. He said:

“This has got nothing to do with BHS!"

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