Belfast Telegraph

Sir Philip Green to be quizzed over '£414m' taken out of BHS

By David Hughes

Sir Philip Green will be challenged by MPs over the "enormous sums" taken out of BHS in dividend payments while the firm was heading towards a crash.

The retail tycoon and his wife Tina Green have been asked to give evidence to Commons committees investigating the collapse of the high street chain, which has four stores in Northern Ireland.

The chairman of one of the cross-party committees examining what happened said there were "enormous questions" that had to be answered.

Dominic Chappell, who has also been called to give evidence by MPs, acquired BHS for £1 from Sir Philip in 2015, taking on a £571m pension deficit and the firm went into administration in April.

Business Select Committee chairman Iain Wright said the panel would ask Sir Philip if his stewardship of the firm and the sale to Mr Chappell had been "appropriate".

He said: "We are keen to find out who knew what, when. This issue over the sale and acquisition of BHS raises enormous questions."

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "Something like £414m was taken out of BHS in dividends over a four-year period and that's when the pension scheme was slipping into deficit.

"So it's a case of 'is it right that people can buy a company, strip it, in many respects, of cash in terms of dividends without real regard to pensions or to employees and then sell it for a pound to untried and untested people who then crash it into a cliff?"

He added: "The question that we want to ask Sir Philip Green is 'you bought BHS, took enormous sums out of the business, the pension scheme went from surplus to deficit and then you sold it for a pound to somebody who was twice bankrupt and who had no experience whatsoever of the retail sector - is that appropriate stewardship of a big, important company?'"

Mr Wright said: "When you sell a business, do you have any further responsibility or do you start to crash it into the cliff and then bail out just before it does crash?"

Belfast Telegraph