28 May 2024, 10:53
By Furniture News Jun 15, 2016

Former BHS owner faces Select Committee

Arcadia Group tycoon Sir Philip Green today endured a six-hour interrogation by a Business, Innovation and Skills and Work and Pensions Select Committee regarding the failure of BHS and the retailer's outstanding pension deficit.

Despite pledging to find a solution to the crisis "as quickly as possible", Sir Philip proved elusive on matters of detail when MPs attempted to ascertain his level of responsibility within the debacle, and knowledge of the suitability of his successor, Dominic Chappell, to whom he sold the business in 2015.

Sir Philip refuted the media's recent accusations of greed, stating that "this business was actually very conservatively run", and that the early dividends he and the company's directors received were "not excessive".

"Our corporate structure could have been much more aggressive," he told the panel.

Although he accepted that he had to shoulder some of the blame, Sir Philip repeatedly reminded the committee that, as much as he might like to, he could not "trade backwards". He admitted that the decisions made to bring him and BHS to this point had created one of the worst possible outcomes – but maintained that he was correct in choosing a buyer that did not seek to immediately place the retailer into a pre-pack administration process.

Whilst not wishing to blame anyone by name, he did suggest that "somebody was asleep at the wheel" when it came to the handover, and that "if the business plan that was laid down had been followed [by Retail Acquisitions Ltd, BHS] wouldn't be in liquidation".

It was not clear whether information regarding the pension deficit had been concealed from RAL at the point of purchase, but Sir Philip welcomed the committee to investigate further.

At several points, Sir Philip's composure threatened to crack, causing the committee to question how such a renowned retail magnate could be so "thin skinned". He also blamed the size of the company and his memory for his lack of grasp on the details.

He concluded: "I've done nothing wrong. I've got a clear conscience." His advisors are said to be working on a "resolvable and sortable" outcome to the crisis.

The £571m pension deficit, covered to a degree by the Pension Preotection Fund, affects 20,000 current and former BHS employees.

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