‘I’ll sort pensions’ as Sir Philip Green says sorry to BHS staff

Sir Philip Green defended his actions during his evidence to the committee
Sir Philip Green defended his actions during his evidence to the committee

Sir Philip Green has apologised to the staff of collapsed retailer BHS, adding that he will “sort” the firm’s dilapidated pension scheme which has a £571 million black hole.

The Topshop billionaire faced a grilling MPs from the Business and Pensions committees who are investigating the firm’s failure.

“Nothing is more sad than how this has ended and I hope during the morning you will hear that there was no intent on my part for anything to be like this and didn’t need to be like this.

“I just want to apologise to all the BHS people who are involved in this and have been involved.”

BHS’s collapse has left a potential 11,000 jobs at risk and a £571m pensions black hole, with the schemes of approximately 20,000 current and former workers falling into the Pension Protection Fund (PPF).

But the tycoon vowed: “We want to find a solution for the 20,000 pensioners. We still believe that money into the PPF does not resolve it.

“The schemes are quite complex, but from what I’ve seen I would say it’s resolvable, it’s sortable, we will sort it, we will find a solution and I want to give my assurances to the 20,0000 pensioners that I am here to sort this.”

He told the MPs that there was now “a light in the tunnel” for the scheme.

Sir Philip added that he had little to do with BHS’s pension trustees but took the blame for the current state of the scheme.

“It’s my fault,” he said.

Sir Philip has also come in for criticism for taking £400 million in dividends out of the firm during his 15-year ownership and selling it to former bankrupt Dominic Chappell for £1 in 2015.

However, Sir Philip claimed that, through his Arcadia retail empire, he had pumped £600 million into BHS after the dividend payments.

He also defended his use of the tax haven Monaco to run his business, saying: “I don’t accept that it is tax avoidance.

“I could have been a lot more aggressive than I probably was. Every penny our company has made in the United Kingdom has paid tax.”

When probed on what sort of person or organisation he was looking to sell BHS to, Sir Philip said: “I think most of the people wanted a pre-pack or admin, take the business through bankruptcy; that was unfortunately where we ended with everybody who turned up.”

Defending his decision to sell to Mr Chappell, Sir Philip sought to shift the blame on to the former bankrupt’s advisory firms Grant Thornton and Olswang, saying their involvement in the deal gave him “credibility”.

He said: “We thought the buyer was legitimate.”

Sir Philip also said he “one million per cent, would not have done business” with Mr Chappell if his own adviser Goldman Sachs had said not to.