SIR PHILIP GREEN SAYS HE’S WORKING ON DAILY BASIS FROM HIS YACHT TO RESOLVE BHS PENSION CRISIS
Sir Philip Green has insisted he is working on a “daily basis” – ostensibly from his yacht – to address BHS’s mammoth pension deficit and batted off claims that he is trying to wriggle out of stumping up cash.
In a statement released on Friday, Sir Philip said he has been co-operating with the pensions regulator for about 18 months and “providing whatever has been requested on a very regular basis”.
He stressed that his cooperation is wholly voluntary, but that he still intends “to try and find a solution” to the BHS pensions debacle.
Sir Philip has come under fire for taking more than £400 million in dividends from the chain, leaving it with a £571 million pension deficit, and for selling it to a man with no retail experience.
Sir Philip owned BHS for 15 years before flogging it to serial bankrupt Dominic Chappell for £1 in 2015.
The department store’s collapse in April has affected 11,000 jobs, 22,000 pensions, sparked a lengthy parliamentary inquiry and left its high-profile former owners potentially facing a criminal investigation.
The last remaining BHS stores were shut in August, bringing to an end 88 years of retail history.
Sir Philip has spent much of the summer on his yacht, named Lionheart, in the Mediterranean, where he has been subject to ridicule from former BHS workers and comedians.
In the statement, Sir Philip denied media reports that he has attempted to pressure or blackmail the pensions regulator.
“This is wholly untrue. I am not in control of the process. I am following the process which has been set down by the regulator. Pensions are extremely complex issues, especially when there are more than 20,000 members involved,” Sir Philip said.
He also took aim at veteran Labour MP Frank Field.
“Mr Field suggested in the House of Commons on Wednesday there was a lack of willingness on my part to reach a settlement with regard to the pension fund. This is untrue, totally inaccurate and unhelpful in solving this issue,” Sir Philip said.
Mr Field has asked the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) to launch a formal investigation into both Sir Philip and Mr Chappell to determine if any criminal wrongdoing occurred during the sale of the chain and throughout their respective ownerships.
The MP later responded to Sir Philip’s statement, saying: “A major barrier to settlement is not the complications, although there are plenty, but a willingness to put enough money into that settlement which ensures that no pensioner is worse off than the day Sir Philip took over BHS when the pension fund had reserves to guarantee everyone their full pension.
“That must be the aim now. But, of course, it does nothing for the 11,000 BHS workers who have seen their jobs destroyed,” Mr Field said.
Sir Philip, who was hauled before MPs over the chain’s collapse, again apologised for the saga, saying: “I would like to apologise sincerely to all the BHS people involved in this sorry affair.
“Contrary to all the coverage, I have been working on this issue on a daily basis, and will continue to do so with my best efforts to achieve a satisfactory outcome for all involved as soon as possible,” he added.