Fraudster who wanted to buy BHS denies he said Sir Philip Green avoided a sale to retail rivals

 
Helen Cahill
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Paul Sutton said Sir Philip Green was not in a rush to sell BHS (Source: Getty)

Convicted fraudster Paul Sutton today denied that he said Sir Philip Green refused to sell BHS to a competitor who could have turned the business around.

Evidence from Larry Verge, a partner at LEK consultants, who advised Paul Sutton on his business plan to acquire BHS, reveals Sutton said Green was "unwilling to sell out to his retail rivals."

Paul Sutton was in talks to buy BHS from Green before Chappell - but Green said in earlier evidence that he ditched Sutton when he received an anonymous file on the fraudster. Sutton was convicted of embezzlement in France in 2002 and sentenced to three years in imprisonment

The letter from Verge to MPs leading the inquiry into BHS said: "[Mr Sutton] said Sir Philip was unwilling to sell out to any of his retail rivals, as this would also have personal reputational consequences if a turnaround succeeded under their direction."

Sutton denied he had said this. When asked by Iain Wright why LEK had provided the evidence, Sutton said: "I haven't got a clue."

The fraudster also denied that he said Green wanted to ditch BHS due to pressure from American investors who wanted Green to focus on Topshop.

The letter from Verge continued: "Mr Sutton said that Sir Philip wanted to exit BHS primarily to focus his attention and resources on Topshop/Topman, which would represent the future of Sir Philip's international retail ambitions.

"According to Mr Sutton, Sir Philip's American backers had supported him on the condition that he exit his other retail activities, to focus on driving international expansion of the core Topshop brands.

"He said that BHS was losing money due to the highly competitive nature of the high street and Sir Philip wanted to offload the business to stem the drain on resource. He said that the Greens believed that if the business could be separated, put under new management and trade 'for a few years' that would absolve them of responsibility for any future failure, and associated reputation damage."

In the hearing today, Sutton said he didn't know why investors would want Green to ditch BHS for Topshop, saying: "I don’t know what Topshop's got to do with it."

Sutton said: "Obviously the business was losing money and everybody knew that.

"He wasn’t in a rush to sell it, he wanted to find a way to cut the losses and sort the pension fund."

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