Philip Green: Who is the businessman who gagged the media from publishing sexual harassment allegations?

Lord Hain uses parliamentary privilege to reveal Topshop boss is retail tycoon who obtained privacy injunction

Tom Embury-Dennis
Thursday 25 October 2018 19:38 BST
Philip Green named by Lord Peter Hain as businessman in NDA case

British billionaire Sir Philip Green has been revealed as the “leading businessman” who won a privacy injunction preventing the media publishing allegations of misconduct by former employees.

The 66-year-old chairman of Arcadia Group, which includes fashion brand Topshop, was named by Lord Hain in the House of Lords using parliamentary privilege.

This give MPs and peers the right to say whatever they like in Parliament. They can never be sued for libel for doing so. It also means the public and media have a right to report what is said in Parliament.

Lord Hain said he was contacted by someone “intimately involved” in the case and that Sir Philip had made “substantial payments” to conceal allegations of “serious and repeated sexual harassment, racist abuse and bullying”.

It was “clearly in the public interest” to make public Sir Philip as the man at the centre of the privacy controversy, Lord Hain added.

Sir Philip said he ”categorically and wholly” denied the allegations.

The outing of the businessman comes two days after the Court of Appeal granted Arcadia Group a temporary injunction banning the naming of the accused, his firm or other details of the case, pending a full trial.

The injunction barred the Daily Telegraph from publishing allegations of “discreditable conduct” by five employees and naming Sir Philip.

But who is Sir Philip Green?

MPs recommend former BHS owner Sir Philip Green is stripped of knighthood

Rise to prominence

Born into a middle-class Jewish family in south London in 1952, Sir Philip’s father was a property developer and retailer.

At the age of nine he was sent to boarding school in Oxfordshire.

He inherited the family business at 12 when his father died of a heart attack.

After leaving school three years later, Sir Philip began working on the forecourt of a petrol station his mother managed, before setting up his first business – importing jeans from Asia and selling them on to London retailers – at the age of 23.

In 1979, he opened his first shop, where he sold designer labels bought at extremely low prices from clothes retailers that had gone into receivership.

He had a very mixed track record of starting up companies, and closing them down, working with other people, falling out with people

Stuart Lansley

Stuart Lansley, the author of an unauthorised biography of Sir Philip, told the BBC in 2016 about the knight’s early ventures into business.

“He had a very mixed track record of starting up companies, and closing them down, working with other people, falling out with people,” he said. ”He travelled a lot, learning a lot about the supply chain, who the cheaper suppliers were and so on – but he certainly wasn’t a household name.”

Sir Philip became chairman and chief executive of discount retailer Amber Day in 1988. But he was forced to resign four years later when the company failed to meet its profit forecast.

But according to Mr Lansley, the businessman moved from “having a few million to a few billion” over the next few years.

“He borrowed very large sums of money, invested a little bit himself and bought up companies that were relatively cheap, because they weren’t doing very well,” he said. “He turned them around, paying off his debt, and then tripling – quadrupling – the money he put in, in a matter of a couple of years.”

In 2000, Sir Philip arrived in the public consciousness when he bought British Home Stores (BHS) for £200m, before two years later helping his wife, Tina Green, buy Arcadia Group, which also owns high street chains including Dorothy Perkins, Burton and Miss Selfridge. Ms Green owns 92 per cent of the company.

Sir Philip Green and wife Tina Green at a wedding ceremony in Monaco (Getty)

Tax affairs

Sir Philip’s arrangement with his wife, who is resident in Monaco means the couple are able to minimise the amount of tax they pay into the UK’s public coffers.

In 2005, Arcadia paid a £1.2bn dividend to Ms Green – the biggest annual dividend pay out to anyone by a British company – without the couple having to pay UK tax.

Five years later, activists staged protests at Topshop stores after then-prime minister David Cameron appointed the businessman, who by now had a history of corporate tax avoidance, to conduct a government efficiency review.

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BHS collapse

Fifteen years after buying BHS, Sir Philip sold the chain in 2015 for £1 to serial bankrupt Dominic Chappell, a move he would later describe as “the worst mistake of my life”.

The following year, the company collapsed with the loss of 11,000 jobs, and a pensions deficit of £571m.

Sir Philip and other investors, on the other hand, walked away with £586m in dividends, rent and interest during their ownership of the company.


In 2016, the House of Commons approved a motion recommending Sir Philip’s knighthood be “cancelled and annulled” over his handling of the BHS sale.

Angela Eagle MP, then shadow business secretary, summed up the feeling of many MPs towards the billionaire: “In this situation it appears this owner extracted hundreds of millions of pounds from the business and walked away to his favourite tax haven, leaving the Pension Protection Scheme to pick up the bill.”

Sir Philip ultimately paid £363m, into the BHS pension scheme, a move that headed off the threat of losing his knighthood, which he was awarded in 2006.

#MeToo and bullying allegations

Earlier this week, Sir Philip was granted an injunction preventing the Daily Telegraph from revealing what is described as “bullying, intimidation and sexual harassment” allegations made against a businessman which it was unable to name.

The newspaper said he had hired a team of lawyers and spent almost £500,000 in legal fees to persuade the Court of Appeal to gag the media from disclosing the allegations against him.

But for Sir Philip, his temporary anonymity came to a sudden end after the intervention of Lord Hain.

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