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Sir Philip Green's associates face grilling by MPs over BHS collapse

Published 09/06/2016

Pensions minister Baroness Altmann said it would not have been appropriate for her to meet the owner of NHS
Pensions minister Baroness Altmann said it would not have been appropriate for her to meet the owner of NHS

Sir Philip Green's inner circle of City confidants, his stepson and some of the biggest names in British business are to be hauled in front of MPs to face questions over the collapse of BHS.

Tory donor Richard Caring, the millionaire tycoon behind The Ivy restaurant, Goldman Sachs vice chairman Michael Sherwood and Sir Philip's stepson Brett Palos are among a host of figures summoned to appear before the Business and Pensions committees later this month.

Mr Caring, a one-time shareholder in BHS, received £93 million in dividends from the retailer.

Banker Mr Sherwood forged close links with Sir Philip when helping him with a failed bid for Marks & Spencer. Sir Philip has come under fire for selling a BHS property to Mr Palos, with claims that the chain lost out on £3.5 million as a result.

Paul Sutton, who introduced Sir Philip to Dominic Chappell, the man who eventually bought BHS for £1, has also been asked to appear before MPs.

Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley was summoned but has agreed to give his evidence in writing instead. On Wednesday, it was claimed that a BHS rescue bid by Mr Ashley was thwarted by Sir Philip.

Neville Kahn, managing partner at Deloitte, is another to be summoned, while several others who have already given evidence will be recalled.

They include Lord Grabiner and Paul Budge, the chairman and finance director of Sir Philip's Arcadia retail empire, head of the Pensions Regulator Lesley Titcomb and Goldman Sachs deal broker Anthony Gutman.

Last week, administrators to the department store chain called time on trying to find a buyer, resulting in the loss of up to 11,000 jobs and leaving behind a £571 million pensions black hole.

Sir Philip has come in for criticism for taking £400 million in dividends out of the firm during his 15-year ownership, and for selling it to former bankrupt Mr Chappell in 2015.

A group of Conservative MPs is now preparing to call on the honours committee to strip Sir Philip Green of his knighthood, should the billionaire refuse to pump hundreds of millions into BHS's pension fund.

The backbench group is poised to write to the Honours Forfeiture Committee as Sir Philip readies for an appearance in front of MPs next week when he will be grilled over the collapse of the retailer.

A senior Westminster source told the Press Association: "If Sir Philip turns up next week and showers us with his wealth, throws £600 million on the table and all the pensions are saved, then that's fine.

"If not, there is such outrage that there will be open calls for his knighthood to be revoked, with a group of Tory backbenchers leading the charge."

The MPs have outlined their proposals to the Business and Pensions committees, which are jointly investigating events surrounding BHS's collapse.

The schemes of approximately 20,000 current and former BHS workers have fallen into the Pension Protection Fund after the retailer collapsed.

Writing to the Honours Forfeiture Committee would be the first step in stripping the Topshop tycoon of his knighthood.

The committee can then advise the Queen to withdraw the honour if a criminal offence has been committed, a person has been struck off a regulatory body or in exceptional circumstances.

Disgraced former Royal Bank of Scotland boss Fred Goodwin had his knighthood revoked in 2012 after the lender had to be bailed out by the government in the wake of the financial crisis.

Sir Philip was awarded the knighthood in 2006 for "services to the retail industry".

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From Belfast Telegraph