Sir Philip Green has said in an interview over the weekend that his decision to sell the ailing department store BHS to former bankrupt Dominic Chappell in 2015 was “the worst mistake of my life”.
The business was sold to Chappell for just £1 in April 2015 and a year later it went bust leaving a pension fund deficit of £571m and 11,000 workers without a job.
A parliamentary investigation ensued, in which Green was obliged to face MPs to account for what had happened, along with a two-year-long inquiry by the Insolvency Service. During this time Green gave £363m of his own money to help plug the gap in the pension fund and was told by the Insolvency Service that he would face no sanctions as a result of the inquiry.
Chappell, however, was told that he faced a director’s ban of up to 15 years. Chappell’s case will now be heard in court.
In an interview with the Mail on Sunday, Green expressed his regret at the sale to Chappell but also his frustration that the process of settling the matter of the pension deficit had been drawn out, he claims, by multiple interventions by MP Frank Field who took a close interest in the BHS case and who has been a vocal critic of Green.
Field had written 17 letters to the Pensions Regulator about the matter and made numerous media appearances. “He intimidated or frightened the regulator out of settling earlier. I tried more than hard to settle it a long time earlier. As outlined in the Section 89 document, there was continual dialogue to try to get to a settlement,” said Green.
Green suggested that, as a result of Field’s interventions, the regulator took the process “to the bitter end” instead of settling earlier, causing further anxiety for BHS pensioners and the Green family. Field, however, denied he held the process up and said he was only keen to see the regulator get the best possible settlement.
Green’s Arcadia empire also includes brands such as Topshop, Topman, Dorothy Perkins, Miss Selfridge, Evans and Burton. Media speculation that Green was looking to sell Arcadia to Chinese conglomerate Shandong Ruyi was dismissed by both parties, who both saying that they had never even met, let alone discussed the matter.