Belfast Telegraph

BHS chief seeks US rescue package for stricken retailer

The owner of BHS has said he is working with private US investors to put together a rescue package for the collapsed retailer.

Dominic Chappell said he would look to save a "substantial majority" of the department store chain's 164 shops and continue the business under the BHS brand.

Speaking to the Press Association, Mr Chappell said: "The pension deficit was weighing us down and not allowing us to move forward.

"After the administration, when the pensions side of the business is sorted out, we will be able to move on. I'm working with US investors to buy a substantial majority of stores."

His move came as it emerged a second committee of MPs would investigate the collapse of BHS, which went into administration on Monday, putting 11,000 jobs at risk.

Mr Chappell acquired BHS for £1 from retail tycoon Sir Philip Green last year, taking on a £571 million pension deficit.

Both men have come under fire - Sir Philip for paying his family £400 million in dividends from the business and mismanaging the pension scheme, and Mr Chappell for sucking a reported £25 million out of BHS over the last year.

However, Mr Chappell hit back, saying: "It's a storm in a teacup. All the money that was taken out was legal and legitimate and went to pay fees."

While not blaming Sir Philip directly for the retailer's demise, when asked where the blame for the retailer's collapse lies, Mr Chappell said: "You only need to look at the pension deficit when we took it over."

Administrators Duff & Phelps are currently seeking buyers for the firm as a going concern, although industry experts have expressed doubts over whether BHS can be saved in its current form.

It is understood that a number of retailers, including Sports Direct, are considering making a play for several stores.

On Tuesday it was revealed that Sir Philip will be called to appear before the Work and Pensions Select Committee to face questions over the collapse.

Now a second committee of MPs is also poised to examine what went wrong at BHS.

The Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) Select Committee is expected to formally announce the inquiry this week and discussions are taking place about the possibility of some joint work with their counterparts on the Work and Pensions Committee.

BIS Select Committee chairman Iain Wright was highly critical of Sir Philip in the Commons on Monday.

He told MPs: "It cannot possibly be right that Sir Philip Green, as the previous owner of the company, loaded it up with debt, did not invest in the business and paid his wife over £400 million in dividends via the tax haven of Monaco."

Mr Wright said owners should choose how they run their businesses, but warned: "When 11,000 jobs are under threat and the taxpayer may be liable for substantial pension liabilities, something is gravely wrong."