Former BHS boss Sir Philip Green said today (9 September) he was still working with The Pensions Regulator to find a solution for the company's 20,000 pensioners and dismissed suggestions that he "blackmailed" the authority.
The department store entered administration in April before eventually folding in June, after owing more than £1.1bn ($1.5bn, €1.3bn) to various creditors, including a £571m pension deficit, £358m to landlords and £48.5m to suppliers.
The demise of the 88-year-old company led to the loss of 11,000 jobs, as the the remaining 23 BHS stores closed their doors for the last time late last month.
Green, the owner of fashion retailer Arcadia Group, has been urged to make a large payment into the pension scheme and he insisted he was working to solve the issue.
"Contrary to all the coverage I have been working on this issue on a daily basis, and will continue to do so with my best efforts to achieve a satisfactory outcome for all involved as soon as possible," the tycoon said in a statement.
The BHS pension scheme fell under the Pension Protection Fund (PPF), which ensures workers receive their pensions even after a company folds. To ensure pensions are paid even in the worst-case scenario, annual taxes are charged on all schemes that could resort to entering the PPF should they need to do so.
In June, Green vowed to resolve the pensions black hole but argued that including the company's pension scheme into the PPF – the lifeboat for failed pension plans – would not resolve the issue, as the programmes are quite complex.
"Since before the company was sold in March 2015, it was always our intention to find a plan for the BHS pensioners that was better than the Pension Protection Fund and that remains the case today," Green added.
"There is also a dialogue with the PPF and Mr Chris Martin the Chairman of the Trustees to ensure all parties are engaged in the process."
The former BHS owner also hit back at allegations he had tried to blackmail The Pensions Regulator, indicating the claims from media and politicians were completely false. He singled out veteran Labour MP Frank Field, who urged the Serious Fraud Office to launch a formal investigation into BHS' collapse to ascertain if any criminal wrongdoing occurred during the sale of the chain from Green to Dominic Chappell and throughout their respective ownerships.
"Mr Field suggested in the House of Commons on Wednesday there was a lack of willingness on my part to reach a settlement with regard to the pension fund," Green said.
"This is untrue, totally inaccurate and unhelpful in solving this issue. There have also been suggestions in the press that I have tried to pressurise the Regulator, or, as was stated on the front page of one newspaper, 'blackmail' it. This is wholly untrue. I am not in control of the process."
The former BHS owner added he was following the process set down by the Regulator, though he insisted pensions were "extremely complex issues, especially when there are more than 20,000 members involved".