Saturday 1 October 2016

Green rebukes MP for 'staring' at him during inquiry into BHS collapse

Ravender Sembhy

Published 16/06/2016 | 02:30

Billionaire Philip Green.
Billionaire Philip Green.

Businessman Philip Green has apologised to the staff of collapsed retailer BHS, saying he will "sort" the firm's dilapidated pension scheme which has a £571m (€721m) black hole.

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The Topshop billionaire is facing British MPs from the Business and Pensions committees who are investigating the failure of BHS. "Nothing is more sad than how this has ended and I hope... you will hear that there was no intent on my part for anything to be like this and didn't need to be like this. I just want to apologise to all the BHS people who are involved in this and have been involved."

BHS's collapse has left a potential 11,000 jobs at risk and a pensions black hole, with the schemes of approximately 20,000 current and former workers falling into the Pension Protection Fund (PPF).

But the tycoon vowed: "We want to find a solution." Mr Green added that he had little to do with BHS's pension trustees but took the blame for the current state of the scheme.

"It's my fault," he said.

Mr Green has come in for criticism for taking £400m in dividends out of the firm during his 15-year ownership and selling it to former bankrupt Dominic Chappell for £1 in 2015. But he claimed that, through his Arcadia retail empire, he had pumped £600m into BHS after the dividend payments.

In an extraordinary exchange, he stopped mid-sentence at one point to rebuke MP Richard Fuller, saying: "Sir, do you mind not looking at me like that all the time, it's really disturbing. You just want to stare at me, it's uncomfortable." Mr Fuller replied: "I don't wish to make you feel uncomfortable."

MP Richard Graham put to Mr Green Mr Chappell's claim that the £1 deal for BHS would be pension free and that Project Thor, a plan to save the pension scheme, would go ahead.

In a series of exchanges, Mr Green replied: "I am sorry, are we in the same room? I am not sure we are. I think you should come and sit here. You keep asking me the same question."

He then pleaded to committee chairman Frank Field: "I apologise sir, I can't deal with this," before adding: "This is really simple. I am happy to get a phone in the room now. We are currently working on this as we speak, an updated Project Thor. They have been working on it for the past two or three weeks."

When asked if he considered the risk to his reputation of selling to Mr Chappell, he said: "We found the wrong guy. There were a lot of people who accepted him at face value. What happened was beyond horrible, sad."

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