MPs have blamed the collapse of department store chain BHS on former owner Sir Philip Green in a scathing new report.
The 60-page report concludes that Green “chose to rush through” the offloading of a “beleaguered high street institution”, losing money and encumbered with a “massive pension fund deficit”, to a buyer who he was clearly aware was “manifestly unsuitable”, with Sir Philip forced to finance the sale himself.
Billionaire Green owned BHS for 15 years before he sold the loss-making retail chain to Dominic Chappell, a serial bankrupt with no retail experience, for £1 in March last year.
BHS went into administration in April, and all remaining 114 stores are due to close in the next four weeks.
The business was sold with a £571 million ($750 million) hole in its pension fund.
The Work and Pensions and Business, Innovations and Skills Committees found that although the acquisition of BHS by Dominic Chappell was “incompetent and self-serving”, the ultimate fate of the company was sealed on the day it was sold.
MPs said in the report that in the early years of ownership, Green cut costs, sold assets and paid substantial dividends offshore to the ultimate benefit of his wife.
“The so-called ‘King of the High Street’ failed to invest sufficiently in stores or reinvent the business to beat the prevailing high street competition,” they continued.
The Committees found “little to support the reputation for retail business acumen for which he received his knighthood” and say “we don’t doubt that Sir Philip had some affection for BHS – to an extent it created him. Now it could also bring him down.”
The report documents the “systematic plunder” of BHS at the cost of the 11,000 jobs and 20,000 people’s pensions now at risk.
“Sir Philip Green, Dominic Chappell and the respective directors, advisers who all got rich or richer are all culpable, with the only losers the ordinary employees and pensioners,” it continues.
The Committees say this is “the unacceptable face of capitalism” and that the story of BHS begs much wider questions about the gaps in company law and pension regulation that must be addressed.