The previous owner of retail firm BHS Sir Philip Green has said that he regrets the decision to sell the chain to serial bankrupt Dominic Chappell, but that attacks on him as a result were fuelled by jealousy of his success and wealth.
When asked if any of what happened as a result of the sale was his fault, Green replied: “None. Zero. Nothing.” Speaking in an interview with the Mail on Sunday, Green also complained that his payment of £363m into the BHS pension scheme last year did not receive enough credit as the actions of “a gentleman” from the public, in comparison to others who have walked away from their obligations.
Green owned BHS for 15 years before it was sold to Chappell for £1 in 2015, during which time he and his family, who own the popular Arcadia Group, pocketed more than £580m from dividends, rent and interest. Just a year after BHS was sold, 11,000 jobs were lost when the retailer collapsed into administration.
Green said he was taken in by Chappell at the time, unable to predict what might happen to his firm despite the businessman’s declarations of personal bankruptcy on three separate occasions in 2009, 2005 and 1992. As a result, he says, his family lost millions, spending over £35m on the aftermath’s legal bill alone.
“I and our board were wholly misled by everyone involved with [Chappell]. Was it the worst mistake of my life? Yes, it was,” commented Green. “Those people who know me know there is no way on this planet [BHS] would have been sold to him if I had even a millionth of a thought process he would do what he did.”
The ensuing furore over BHS’ £571m pension fund deficit was also, in part, the fault of a “personal vendetta” on the behalf of the chair of the work and pensions committee Frank Field, said Green. The Mail on Sunday confirmed that Green had indeed made several earlier offers to pay a lump sum before a deal was reached, despite claims by Field that Green had been holding up the process.
A parliamentary investigation into the BHS collapse in 2016 threatened to relieve Green of his knighthood, accusing him of “systematic plunder” as he sailed around the Mediterranean with his wife while BHS pensioners worried about the fate of their nest eggs.
“I wrote a cheque for £363m,” he continued. “But nobody has ever said, this man behaved like a gentleman, his family behaved properly.”
“I feel like I’ve got to justify I had the ability to pay, that my family has got a yacht, that I’m living a nice lifestyle. Thank goodness, along my journey, I was very successful and was able to pay.”
“I don’t think it’s grand living [on the yacht], I’m sorry. You’re saying I have been successful and I should have to apologise for that?”
Last month, Green narrowly escaped being banned from serving as a company director by the Insolvency Service. Chappell, on the other hand, was not so fortunate.