Tuesday 21 August 2018

Former boss milked BHS, damning report says

Gavin Cordon London

Former BHS boss Philip Green has been branded the "unacceptable face of capitalism" as a parliamentary inquiry found he systematically extracted huge sums from the collapsed store group while leaving its pension fund in deficit.

In an excoriating joint report, two House of Commons select committees accused the entrepreneur of seeking to blame anyone but himself for the firm's failure and said he has a "moral duty" to make a "large financial contribution" to the 20,000 pensioners facing substantial cuts to their benefits.

While the committees were damning about Dominic Chappell, who bought BHS for £1, and the "directors, advisers and hangers-on" associated with the deal, they said that ultimate responsibility lay with Green (inset above).

Although his family had accrued "incredible wealth" from their early, profitable years of owning BHS - while paying little in tax - Green had failed to invest in the company and refused to address the "substantial and unsustainable deficit" in the pension fund.

The two committees - Work and Pensions and Business, Innovation and Skills - said it was "inconceivable" Green had not realised Mr Chappell, a former bankrupt with no retail experience, was a "manifestly unsuitable" buyer and he had "acted to conceal the true state of the BHS pension problem".

The report - among the most scathing ever issued by a Commons committee - comes just days after the Cabinet Office disclosed that it was reviewing Green's knighthood.

Frank Field, the chairman of the Commons Work and Pensions Committee, said: "One person, and one person alone, is ultimately responsible for the BHS disaster. His reputation as the king of retail lies in the ruins of BHS.

"His family took out of BHS . . . a fortune beyond the dreams of avarice, and he's still to make good his boast of 'fixing' the pension fund. What kind of man is it who can count his fortune in billions but does not know what decent behaviour is?"

The report concluded: "Sir Philip gave insufficient priority to the BHS pension scheme over an extended period. His failure to resolve its problems by now has contributed substantially to the demise of BHS.

Irish Independent

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