Sir Philip Green is facing renewed calls to give up his knighthood, or be stripped of it, after a devastating report on his behaviour and integrity by a select committee of MPs.
The report, which has left Green fighting for his reputation, was damning about his behaviour. The report concluded:
“The evidence we have received over the course of this inquiry has at times resembled a circular firing squad. Witnesses appeared to harbour the misconception that they could be absolved from responsibility by blaming others. The worst example was Sir Philip Green, despite his protestations to the contrary. Sir Philip adopted a scattergun approach, liberally firing blame to all angles except his own, though he began his evidence by saying he would do the opposite. The truth is that a large proportion of those who have got rich or richer off the back of BHS are to blame. Sir Philip Green, Dominic Chappell and their respective directors, advisers and hangers-on are all culpable. The tragedy is that those who have lost out are the ordinary employees and pensioners. This is the unacceptable face of capitalism”.
Green, who led BHS into collapse with the loss of thousands of jobs, was accused of driving the deal to sell the company cheaply. The report said:
“Sir Philip Green drove the deal forward. He sought to sell a chain that had become a financial millstone and threatened his reputation. He knew that Dominic Chappell was a wholly unsuitable purchaser but overlooked or made good each of Chappell’s shortcomings and proceeded with a rushed sale regardless”.
MPs also queried whether Green should have ever been given a knighthood following his behaviour when in charge of BHS, saying:
“The Green family benefited significantly from BHS. In his early years of ownership, Sir Philip cut costs, sold assets and paid substantial dividends offshore to the ultimate benefit of his wife. He failed, however, to invest sufficiently in stores or reinvent the business to beat the prevailing high street competition. We found little evidence to support the reputation for retail business acumen for which he received his knighthood”.
Frank Field, who was the co-chairman of the inquiry said that Sir Philip Green needed to pay a sum of at least £571 million to restore the NHS pension fund. Speaking to BBC Radio, Frank Field said that he felt that Green had acted in a worse manner than Robert Maxwell. Field said:
“I’ve always thought Maxwell meant to pay the money back, he was just going all over the place borrowing money to keep his companies going. When the music stopped he had no money. Sir Philip Green has a huge amount of money – unlike Robert Maxwell – if he wishes now to make good the pension deficit to those 22,000 pensioners he could do it. He keeps talking about it, but doesn’t do it. He just needs to get his chequebook out and start writing a cheque to cover the huge pension deficit. He has wealth beyond the dreams of avarice and should act”.
A spokesman for Theresa May, the Prime Minister, said:
“This case shows why the government is determined to tackle corporate irresponsibility and reform capitalism so it works for everyone – not just the privileged few. Today’s report is very concerning, and the Insolvency Service is now carrying out an accelerated investigation. Jobcentres are also standing by to provide support and advice to those who were affected. But in the long run we need to do more to prevent this kind of irresponsible and reckless behaviour”.
Green has yet to respond to the report, but he had already promised money to help cover the pension fund liabilities.