Richard Caring, the West End restaurants and clubs tycoon, was one of the beneficiaries of the £400m in dividends that were paid out from BHS in the years before Sir Philip Green – “the King of Shops” – sold the ailing retailer for just £1.
Mr Caring owned 22.5 per cent of the retailer in the early days of Sir Philip’s control of the department store, and the owner of the Ivy and Annabel’s told the Evening Standard newspaper in February 2015 that he received a total of £100m in dividends as a result.
A letter to the media from Caring’s law firm, Carter-Ruck, said: “Our client invested in BHS in 2001, and he received dividends of £93m between 2002 and 2004. Our client disposed of all his interest in BHS in November 2006. During the entire period of our client’s shareholdings, BHS traded profitably, and two years after our client divested his shareholdings, BHS’s pension fund was in surplus.”
But there have been calls for Mr Caring – alongside Sir Philip – to be called to give evidence to MPs probing the collapse of the 88-year-old chain, which has put 11,000 jobs at risk and forced a state-backed bailout of the company’s pension scheme.
Vince Cable, the former business secretary, tells the Evening Standard today that there is a “strong case” for Mr Caring to be called to give evidence.
Parliament’s Business Committee and the Work and Pensions Committee have both indicated they will investigate what has happened at BHS, which Sir Philip sold for £1 to a group called Retail Acquisitions in March 2015.
Mr Caring also told the Evening Standard a year ago that he had paid £33m in tax on the BHS dividends and that he had sold his stake to Sir Philip.
Mr Caring’s BHS interest came to light after the HSBC files were leaked by Hervé Falciani last year. The files showed that HSBC bankers in Switzerland “noted” Mr Caring’s offshore accounts were husbanding profits from an “anonymous” stake in BHS.
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