When Sir Philip Green bought BHS in May 2000, he insisted it would not be rocket science to revive the ailing high street retailer. After paying £200m, he was convinced he had the skills to secure its future. But last year, after failing in his mission, Green sold BHS for £1 to a little known group of investors who have steered it into collapse in just over 12 months. His dreams for the chain may have come to nothing, but Green’s family have still been big winners from BHS, taking out more than £580m in dividends, rental payments and interest on loans to help fund a lavish lifestyle.
As the pensions regulator considers whether to pursue Green for between £200m and £300m – to help fill the black hole in BHS’s pension schemes that had developed since 2000 – he is awaiting delivery of his latest toy: a $150m (£100m) superyacht named Lionheart. The 90-metre vessel will join Green’s two other yachts, speedboat, helicopter and Gulfstream jet, which comes in handy for his weekly trips to and from Monaco to visit his family.
Green and his wife Tina were listed as the UK’s 29th richest family in last weekend’s Sunday Times rich list, which estimated their worth as £3.22bn.
Tina, who since 2004 has been the legal owner of BHS – and the Arcadia Group, which includes Topshop, Miss Selfridge and Dorothy Perkins – is based in Monaco. The handover of BHS to Green’s wife was completed just before the family paid themselves £1.2bn in dividends from Arcadia in 2005, the biggest pay cheque in British corporate history, equivalent to four times the group’s then profits.
11,ooo loyal and faithful BHS employees on the other hand, are either staring limited redundancy payments or modest pension payments in the face. That’s 11,000 constituents who have dutifully paid their taxes, raised their families and contributed much good towards society.
11,000 people who used to believe that if you worked hard and saved hard you were sure to be amply rewarded. 11,000 people who considered it a good idea to make monthly payments towards their BHS pensions only to discover that there is a massive financial hole in the pension pot, I bet they wonder how that happened.
11,000 people who haven’t had a ride on Sir Phillip Green’s yacht, haven’t attended his lavish parties and weren’t privy to the awarding of his knighthood. Incidentally, talking about that knighthood, when is its removal going to be debated in the House of Commons? Anytime soon?
T’is said you’re not supposed to talk evil of the dead or the filthy rich, but it’s a terrible thing when the non-existent business integrity of the filthy rich, corrodes the values of grass-roots workers.
What point is there in pursuing a career with an established firm, if all you’re doing is setting yourself up to get robbed at work by the firm that employed you? What point is there in ‘being moral’ whilst your bosses party away both your pension, and the businesses profits? When businessmen who steal their worker’s pensions remain free and at large, rather than being prosecuted and sent to prison, you have to ask yourself what advantage there is in behaving as though you, the employee, are morally decent. In the words of the celebrated Phillipines Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago,
That goes for the private, as well as the public sector.