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Dominic Chappell denies BHS failed because of the money he took out

Published 05/07/2016

Dominic Chappell admitted taking a lot of money out of BHS, but denied that was why the business failed
Dominic Chappell admitted taking a lot of money out of BHS, but denied that was why the business failed

BHS's former owner has defended taking millions out of the doomed retailer as a "drip in the ocean" and accused Sir Philip Green of siphoning huge sums from the firm.

Former bankrupt Dominic Chappell admitted he was a "chancer" who had benefited "a lot" from owning the high street giant, but denied the £2.6 million package that included a £600,000 salary had contributed to its demise.

BHS's collapse in April left 11,000 people out of work and a £571 million black hole in its pensions fund, triggering an inquiry by MPs into the whereabouts of the cash.

Speaking to BBC's Newsnight Mr Chappell said he "sincerely and utterly" apologised to the high street giant's staff and insisted he had made every effort to turn the ailing company around.

He said: "I took a big risk going in and it was a risk reward, we live in a risk reward society, that's the way companies are built and fail. Did I take a lot of money out? Yes I did. But did the business fail because of the amount of money I took out? No it didn't. This was just a drip in the ocean compared to the money that was needed to turn around BHS.

"What would I say to them [BHS employees]? I sincerely and utterly apologise for you being out of work. It's hideous. It did not need to happen. We did take money out of BHS but we certainly didn't take nearly £1 billion out of it."

Mr Chappell previously told the Commons Business and Pensions Committees that his efforts to save BHS were confounded by Sir Philip, who owned the retailer for 15 years.

The Topshop tycoon has come under fire for taking £400 million in dividends from BHS and then selling it to Mr Chappell, who had no previous retail experience and had been declared bankrupt twice.

Mr Chappell said that, had he not taken on the risky acquisition, the job losses would have come sooner.

He also repeated the allegation that Sir Philip was "in for one thing and one thing only, to extract as much cash as a business as fast as possible".

"We were the only people to stick our heads above the parapet and give it a go, otherwise [Sir Philip] would have liquidated that company. And thousands of people would have lost their jobs straight away," he said.

"We were the only people ... prepared to really work hard to do that. So if I'm a chancer for that, well, yes I am.

Frank Field, the Labour chairman of the pensions committee, has described Mr Chappell as a "Walter Mitty" - a reference to the fictional character who lived in his own fantasy world.

Mr Chappell said it was "pathetic" and "ridiculous" for the MP to make the comments while the inquiry was continuing.

The failure of BHS and the resulting public outcry had "absolutely destroyed" his reputation, he said, adding: "I think it is just important to know we haven't just gone in, ripped the guts out of BHS and walked out.

"We had some very very big problems all the way through and we had the tide against us all the way, we had not one day that went past when we had some luck on our side."

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