A newly leaked email has suggested that Sir Philip Green enlisted the help of HSBC to help him find a buyer for his Arcadia retail empire, throwing his staunch denial of a potential sale into doubt.
According to The Sunday Times, Green met with HSBC’s managing director and UK chief executive David Barraclough and Ian Stuart in February 2016 in order to discuss succession planning.
The billionaire Topshop and Miss Selfridge owner was described in an email to Barraclough’s colleagues as being distracted over the BHS pensions scandal.
He was understood to be considering the sale of his flagship brand Topshop in order to pay off the ballooning Arcadia pensions deficit, set to hit nearly double BHS’s at £900 million.
Green also made it clear that neither of his children would take over the group.
“As emotions were running high, PG’s (Philip Green) thinking was the need to sell, and having heard my comments . . . (he) sought our assistance and offered to meet any Chinese prospective partner we consider appropriate,” the leaked email read.
“After further discussion, PG agreed to source a sale solution. The strategy should be to sell Topshop/Topman separate to the rest of the Arcadia portfolio of lesser brands.
“Whilst the Topshop/Topman sale should be straightforward, he accepts residual Arcadia will be a tougher ask and may need to be sold by way of individual brands over a protracted period.”
This follows Green’s direct and vehement denial of the sale last week, after a similar plan was reported.
Arcadia told the Sunday Times in a statement that reports he had met with HSBC were “totally untrue”, as were any suggestions Arcadia “has been seeking a buyer for some time”.
Before his denial, head of the work and pensions select committee Frank Field called on Green to provide evidence Arcadia employees’ pensions would be safe amid a sale, hoping to avoid a repeat of BHS.
At the end of last week Dominic Chappell – who bought BHS from Green for £1 before its collapse which left a £571 pensions black hole and put tens of thousands out of work – was fined £87,000 for failing to provide important information to the Pensions Regulator regarding the retailer.