Sir Philip Green, the former owner of department store chain BHS, has apologised for the collapse of the 88-year-old company and pledged to resolve the group's pension crisis.
Speaking in front of MPs amid a parliamentary inquiry into the demise of BHS on Wednesday (15 June), Green, who sold the company to Dominic Chappell for £1 in 2015, said nothing was "more sad than how this [BHS] has ended".
BHS collapsed earlier this month after owing more than £1.1bn (€1.4bn, $1.6bn) to various creditors, including a £571m pension deficit, £358m to landlords and £48.5m to suppliers.
The former BHS owner insisted he will try to find a solution for the 20,000 people that have been affected by collapse. "We want to find a solution for the 20,000 pensioners," he said, although he argued that putting the scheme into the Pension Protection Fund – the lifeboat for failed schemes would not resolve the issue , as the schemes are quite complex. But I believe it is resolvable, it is solvable," he added. "We will sort it, we will find a solution."
On 3 June, the administrators announced they would close all remaining 163 BHS stores across the UK, after a suitable buyer could not be found for the embattled chain. The decision means that 8,000 members of staff are likely to lose their jobs, while an additional 3,000 contractor jobs could also be at risk.
"There certainly [was] no intent on my part for anything to be like this," he said. "It didn't need to be like this."
Green has come under intense scrutiny for his role in the collapse of BHS, given that he took some £400m in dividends out of the company during his 15-year ownership. His decision to sell to embattled retailer to Chappell, a man with no proven business background who had been declared bankrupt three times has also attracted criticism.
Green told MPs he first thought about selling the group in 2014, although he admitted there had been "no thought process – perhaps there should have been – it would have saved a lot of aggravation". He also added that, in hindsight, he should have sold the company in 2002.
Speaking in front of the same commission a week ago, Chappell accused Green of blocking a last-ditch rescue plan put forward by Mike Ashley's Sports Direct to save the struggling company. "Philip [Green] went absolutely crazy, screaming and shouting down the phone that he didn't want to get involved with Mike Ashley," Chappell told MPs, adding BHS former owner then decided to call in a £35m loan.
BHS was 'in the wrong shape'
However, the retail tycoon insisted his Arcadia business, which owns a number of brands, including Top Shop and Dorothy Perkins, invested £800m as he aimed to turn around the fortunes of a business that "structurally was in the wrong shape".
Green was also eager to defend the decision of running his operations from Monaco, a renowned tax haven. "I don't accept that it is tax avoidance," he said. "With respect, if you look at our corporate structure, there is a lot of stuff written and I don't want to talk about other companies, it is not my style. I could have been a lot more aggressive than I probably was. Every penny our company has made in the United Kingdom has paid tax."