Belfast Telegraph

Sir Philip Green ran BHS as his 'personal empire', MPs report

By Ravender Sembhy

Former BHS owner Sir Philip Green was 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.

The inquiry gave its findings as thousands of BHS staff - including 182 people in Northern Ireland - face redundancy.

Administrator Duff & Phelps is gearing up to close the chain's 114 remaining stores over the coming weeks.

BHS at Lisburn's Bow Street Mall closed three days ago with the loss of 24 jobs, while the Abbeycentre BHS, which employs 38 people, closes on Saturday this week.

The remaining Belfast stores, at Castle Place in the city centre and at Holywood Exchange, will close on August 20.

BHS has 57 staff in the city centre and 33 in Holywood.

In total, more than 11,000 employees are set to lose their jobs after the department store chain collapsed into administration in April.

According to yesterday's report, Sir Philip and his family pocketed £400m in dividends during his 15-year ownership of the firm, with BHS's pension scheme nursing a £571m deficit when it fell into administration. In the hard-hitting joint report, two Commons select committees accused the entrepreneur of seeking to blame anyone but himself for the firm's failure and said he had a "moral duty" to make a "large financial contribution" to the 20,000 people facing substantial cuts to their benefits.

While the committees were damning about Dominic Chappell, who bought BHS for £1 from the billionaire last year, and the "directors, advisers and hangers-on" associated with the deal, they said ultimate responsibility lay with Sir Philip.

The inquiry found that Sir Philip Green ran his business empire as his personal fiefdom in which boards were expected to defer to his wishes, rather than provide effective scrutiny of decisions.

BHS had 164 stores prior to its collapse, and 20 - including the branch in Lisburn - have closed down so far.

Staff across the remaining 114 stores were formally notified last night that their jobs were going into redundancy consultation.

Duff & Phelps has failed to find a buyer for the business as a going concern and will now look to sell the stores off piecemeal.

But in a statement last night, Sir Philip Green called the report "the predetermined and inaccurate output of a biased and unfair process". He said: "With the benefit of hindsight, clearly Retail Acquisitions and Mr Chappell were a very bad choice as purchaser on many fronts and I feel badly let down. Sadly, one cannot turn the clock back."

But he claimed the disposal had been made "100% in good faith".

"As I told the committees, I am trying to find a solution for the BHS pension and am continuing to work with the Regulator to achieve an outcome.

"I am sad and sorry for all the BHS people caught up in this horrid story, but I do not believe that this story is being in any way fairly portrayed."

The parliamentary report was particularly scathing about Lord Grabiner QC, the non-executive chairman of the Taveta group - a holding company ultimately owned by Sir Philip's wife, Lady Tina Green.

It said the peer had provided a "veneer of establishment credibility" to the group while the "weak" corporate governance arrangements contributed "substantially" to the ultimate demise of BHS.

Belfast Telegraph