Sir Philip Green 'working every day' from his superyacht to save BHS pensions

Retail billionaire accused of 'systematic plunder' of BHS says he has been working on a solution for 18 months and denies allegations he attempted to blackmail the regulator

Ben Chapman
Friday 09 September 2016 14:45 BST
Sir Philip Green's superyacht, with a 'BHS Destroyer' banner which was unfurled this week by comedian Simon Brodkin
Sir Philip Green's superyacht, with a 'BHS Destroyer' banner which was unfurled this week by comedian Simon Brodkin (@Realleenelson)

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Louise Thomas

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Sir Philip Green has insisted that he is working every day to plug the £571 million hole he left in BHS’ pension fund and dismissed allegations that he is attempting to delay a settlement for 20,000 former workers.

The billionaire retail magnate, who has been accused by MPs of the “systematic plunder” of the defunct high street chain, is believed to be holidaying in the Mediterranean on his 300-foot superyacht, Lionheart.

Green said he had been co-operating with the pensions regulator for about 18 months and “providing whatever has been requested on a very regular basis”.

He stressed that his cooperation is wholly voluntary, but that he still intends “to try and find a solution” to the BHS pensions debacle.

The Topshop owner has come under fire for taking more than £400 million in dividends and interest payments from BHS, running stores into the ground through under-invesment and then leaving the company with a £571 million pension deficit, after selling it to a man with no retail experience.

Green said he felt compelled to correct allegations made by Labour MP Frank Field. “Mr Field suggested in the House of Commons on Wednesday there was a lack of willingness on my part to reach a settlement with regard to the pension fund. This is untrue, totally inaccurate and unhelpful in solving this issue,” Green said.

The former BHS owner has come under fire from MPs who have named him the "unacceptable face of capitalism"
The former BHS owner has come under fire from MPs who have named him the "unacceptable face of capitalism" (Reuters)

He insisted he had been working tirelessly since March 2015 to secure an outcome that would be better than that offered by the Pension Protection Fund.

Green also denied media reports that he has attempted to blackmail the pensions regulator by injecting money into the BHS pension scheme in exchange for extracting concessions on any future deal.

Sir Philip Green tells Sky News cameraman 'that's going in the f****ng sea'

“This is wholly untrue. I am not in control of the process. I am following the process which has been set down by the Regulator. Pensions are extremely complex issues, especially when there are more than 20,000 members involved,” Sir Philip said.

Green apologised “sincerely to all the Bhs people involved in this sorry affair.

“Contrary to all the coverage I have been working on this issue on a daily basis, and will continue to do so with my best efforts to achieve a satisfactory outcome for all involved as soon as possible,” he said.

Green sold the business to serial bankrupt Dominic Chappell for £1 in March 2015 after it made a £70 million loss. Chappell’s consortium, Retail Acquisitions, extracted over £17 million before the company was put into insolvency, making 11,000 employees redundant.

In July two commons select committees issued a scathing report saying that Green’s systematic extraction of hundreds of millions of pounds and under-investment in BHS left the business and its pension fund weakened to the point of "inevitable" collapse.

Philip Green apologise to BHS

His actions represent the “unacceptable face of capitalism”, the report said.

Green — one of the UK’s most recognisable businessmen — owns a range of fashion chains including TopShop and Miss Selfridge. Born in London, Green has amassed a personal fortune of £2.5 billion, according to the Bloomberg billionaires index. He is now a resident of Monaco, a move which he told MPs was for health reasons.

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