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Sir Philip Green points to a “light in the tunnel” for BHS pensioners

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Former BHS Owner Sir Philip Green offered a formal apology to BHS staff in his parliamentary hearing today, adding that he will “sort” the firm’s pension scheme which has left behind a £571m black hole.

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

The Arcadia Boss faced a thorough six hours of questioning before the parliamentary panel investigating the collapse of the British department store chain. During the meeting Green told MPs that there is now “a light in the tunnel” for the scheme.

While the retail tycoon denied having any involvement with BHS’s pension trustees, he took the blame for the current state of the scheme.

Green directly accepted his wrongdoing stating “It’s my fault”. Nonetheless, he claimed that through his Arcadia estate, he injected £600m into BHS after dividend payments.

"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."

"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."

When questioned about what kind of person or organisation he was looking to sell BHS to, Green stated “someone who can take the business forward. Most of the people that turned up wanted to do a process – almost everybody.”

Further probes concerning the £1 sale of the business to fraudster Dominic Chappell in 2015, saw the Topshop Boss shift the blame. Green noted that he was largely influenced by advice from banking behemoth Goldman Sachs who initially “vetted” Chappell and the deal.

Green also added that the former bankrupt advisory firms Grant Thornton and Olswang’s involvement in the deal gave the Retail Acquisitions Boss “credibility”.

“We thought the buyer was legitimate” he said.

He also added that had his advisers at Goldman Sachs not approved of the deal, he would “one million percent not have done business with him (Chappell)”.

Green accepted his ultimate incorrect decision with the sale adding, “I made a bad call selling this business to Retail Acquisitions. We found the wrong guy."

While discussing more recent claims by Chappell that Green blocked attempts by Sports Direct Boss Mike Ashley to save BHS, Green said that the accusation was “laughable” and that he had “zero” interest that Ashley had expressed his interest.

Green became increasingly agitated when MP Iain Wright accused Green of blocking the Ashley deal because he didn’t want another retail billionaire to make a success of BHS. He responded “That’s an insult, that’s really rude”.

He maintained that he “had no involvement in the deal whatsoever” other than offering to pay a “few million” to top up Ashley’s offer.

Defending his character at the end of the meeting, Sir Philip said: "All people in BHS know I'm honest and no way in the world I would have wanted this type of ending."

Iain Wright, Chair of the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee and Frank Field, Chair of the Work and Pensions Committee said in a joint statement after the meeting that they were pleased that Sir Philip is attempting to assist BHS pensioners.

"We hope he will come up with an offer that is satisfactory to the Pensions Regulator. However, he doesn't only have to satisfy the Pensions Regulator, today he is before the bar of public opinion. Much of his reputation now depends on how generously he responds."

"We have more witnesses scheduled at the end of June and in the last few days we have received a huge amount of further evidence. We have many further questions for Sir Philip, particularly the big questions on the pension fund that he was unable to answer today."

Published on Wednesday 15 June by Talya Misiri

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