Former BHS boss Sir Philip Green has been branded the “unacceptable face of capitalism” as a parliamentary inquiry found he systematically extracted huge sums from the collapsed store group while leaving its pension fund in deficit.
In an excoriating joint report, two Commons select committees accused the entrepreneur of seeking to blame anyone but himself for the firm’s failure and said he has a “moral duty” to make a “large financial contribution” to the 20,000 pensioners facing substantial cuts to their benefits.
While the committees were damning about Dominic Chappell, who bought BHS for £1, and the “directors, advisers and hangers-on” associated with the deal, they said that ultimate responsibility lay with Sir Philip.
Although his family had accrued “incredible wealth” from their early, profitable years of owning BHS - while paying little in tax - Sir Philip had failed to invest in the company and refused to address the “substantial and unsustainable deficit” in the pension fund.
The two committees - Work and Pensions and Business, Innovation and Skills - said it was “inconceivable” Sir Philip had not realised Mr Chappell, a former bankrupt with no retail experience, was a “manifestly unsuitable” buyer and that he had “acted to conceal the true state of the BHS pension problem” from him.
The report - among the most scathing ever issued by a Commons committee - comes just days after the Cabinet Office disclosed that it was reviewing Sir Philip’s knighthood and will intensify the clamour for him to be stripped of the honour.
Frank Field, the chairman of the Commons Work and Pensions Committee, said: “One person, and one person alone, is ultimately responsible for the BHS disaster. His reputation as the king of retail lies in the ruins of BHS.
“His family took out of BHS ... a fortune beyond the dreams of avarice, and he’s still to make good his boast of ‘fixing’ the pension fund. What kind of man is it who can count his fortune in billions but does not know what decent behaviour is?”