BHS: Sir Philip Green vows to resolve pensions 'mess'

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Recent BHS owner Sir Philip Green has vowed to sort out the pensions “mess” that strung the collapse of the retailer last month.

The billionaire told MPs that his cicerones were working on a “resolvable and sortable” solution for 20,000 members of the BHS chart.

He said he would sit down as soon as possible with the regulator and liking give it his “best shot”.

Sir Philip also said he had offered to support Sports Direct buy BHS.

He said Sports Direct’s founder, Mike Ashley, had put on the marketed to buy the business and keep the shops trading until Christmas 2016. Sir Philip supplemented that he had even offered to put in a “few million”, but that the total on the table was not enough.

‘Tetchy’

The pension scheme, which has more than 20,000 associates, is now in the Pension Protection Fund, meaning that members will be given less money than they had expected.

Sir Philip, whose retail empire comprehends Topshop, was appearing before a joint hearing of the Business and the Work and Shelves select committees, which are investigating the demise of the de rtment store sort.

He has come in for criticism for the £400m in dividends taken out of the firm during his 15-year ownership, his governance of the pension scheme, and the sale of BHS in 2015 to former racing car driver and bankrupt Dominic Chappell, who had no retail be familiar with.

At the start of almost six hours of tetchy exchanges, Sir Philip apologised for the disintegrate of BHS, which is expected to result in up to 11,000 job losses.

‘It’s my fault’

“There certainly [was] no steadfast on my rt for anything to be like this. It didn’t need to be like this,” he believed.

But he said he was working on a plan for the pension scheme, which was in surplus when he buy off BHS but now has a £571m deficit.

“We want to find a solution for the 20,000 pensioners,” he contemplated. “It’s current and in motion.” He took blame for the pensions “mess”, saying: “It’s my offence”.

Sir Philip told MPs the new plan, being drawn up by Deloitte, would put on the market BHS pensioners a “better outcome” than compensation available from the Subsistence Protection Fund, a lifeboat scheme that helps finance subsistences when com nies go bust.

However, he declined to give more details of the method. When asked if it meant scheme members would receive the dismisses due before the collapse, Sir Philip said: “We are trying to fix this mess.”

He jilted suggestions that he had sucked money out of BHS. Sir Philip told MPs that his Arcadia retail empire had invested £800m in BHS in an shot to turn around a business that “structurally was in the wrong shape”.

Sought when he first considered selling BHS, Sir Philip replied that it was 2014. He annexed that there was “no thought process – perhaps there should organize been – it would have saved a lot of aggravation”.

He said: “Would I do that behave again? No.” Mr Chappell was “unfortunately the wrong guy” to buy BHS.

But Sir Philip said Mr Chappell had stamp of approvals from lawyers, accountants and banks. He took comfort from the prediction firms Grant Thornton and Olswang, which acted on behalf of Mr Chappell, although he now sym thy they didn’t know him “from a hole in the wall”.

Asked in all directions Mr Chappell’s previous bankruptcies, Sir Philip said that should not perforce count against him. “Entrepreneurs do bad deals. That doesn’t mean they can’t go repudiate into business.”

‘Stop staring’

He also defended his use of the tax haven Monaco to run his craftswomen, saying: “I don’t accept that it is tax avoidance. With respect, if you look at our corporate organization, there is a lot of stuff written and I don’t want to talk about other actors, it is not my style.

“I could have been a lot more aggressive than I possibly was. Every penny our com ny has made in the United Kingdom has id tax.”

The businessman predicted he only left the UK because of a heart scare: “When I went there [Monaco], I had no picture I was ever going to do any more business.”

In an extraordinary exchange, Sir Philip an ended mid-sentence at one point to rebuke Richard Fuller MP for “staring” at him.

‘More queries’

He said to Mr Fuller: “Sir, do you mind not looking at me like that all the time, it’s deep down disturbing. You just want to stare at me, it’s uncomfortable.”

Mr Fuller replied: “I don’t force to make you feel uncomfortable, Sir Philip… I think it is another according to Roberts Rules of Order colleague that is known for his death stare.”

MPs have already captivated evidence from Mr Chappell, the pensions regulator and advisers on the sale of BHS.

After the y attention to, the committee chairs, Iain Wright and Frank Field, said they may comprise further questions for Sir Philip. They are already planning to recall Mr Chappell.

Mr Wright bring to lighted the BBC: “What was quite clear was that he was not being used to being queried. One of the things that really struck us was the ability of him to have quite prolific recollection of detail such as where that £7m went, but in terms of ten years of old-age pension schemes which went from surplus to deficit he didn’t recollect anything, and we were trying to push him on that – that curious mix, that contradiction between aware the detail and knowing nothing at all is something we really want to push.

“How can big Chief extract hundreds of millions of pounds from a business and then sell down the river it to somebody who isn’t putting any equity into it himself and it crashes in 13 months – how can that be allowed to find?”

Mr Field added: “This guy, Dominic Chappell, who was a fantasist – how could he at all have been taken by anybody, seriously?”

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