Retail tycoon Sir Philip Green and Frank Field MP are spitting venom at each other over the collapse of BHS.
Field exploded during Wednesday’s session of the Parliamentary inquiry into the collapse of BHS, accusing Green and his company of “nicking” money from the department store.
He said: “The City is furious with your behaviour, the image you put over that everybody in business is not about spreading wealth but is about nicking money off other people.”
Green was not attending the evidence session but Field addressed the comments to representatives of Arcadia, Green’s company, who were there.
The Green family bought BHS in 2000 for £200 million ($268 million) but sold it for just £1 last year. During his early years of ownership Green’s family took over £400 million in dividends out of the business.
Green and his company Arcadia have always insisted they put more into BHS than the family and Arcadia ever got out in dividends and fees. But MPs, particularly Field, have been reluctant to believe this line.
Field told Arcadia’s finance director Paul Budge, who was giving evidence on Wednesday: “We’ve had nothing but people coming here and trying to disguise what has happened,” adding later, “you’re stretching credulity to breaking point.”
Budge and other Arcadia executives denied this, saying they have been totally honest with the inquiry, but Field said, “all along we’ve had to shoehorn things out of you.”
Field also attacked Sir Philip’s claim that he will fix BHS’ estimated £275 million pension blackhole. When Budge bought this up, he snapped: “He does not fix it. We’re fed up of hearing that.”
Hours after Field’s outburst, Sir Philip Green shot back at the Labour MP. His PR agency emailed a statement UK business journalists attacking Field’s “outrageous outburst.”
Sir Philip Green said in a statement:
“Mr Field’s outrageous outburst today demonstrated yet again his clear prejudice against myself, my wife and my executives, who turned up for a second time.”
“He arrived very late, offered no apology, heard no evidence, clearly just to put on a ten minute show and was extremely rude. Accusing me and my family of theft is totally false and unacceptable on any basis.”
“The committee was yesterday made fully aware of the fact that a solution for the BHS pension funds is being worked on. His behaviour is as far as you can get from being helpful to anyone in this situation.
“Mr Field needs to apologise for his shocking and offensive behaviour.”
It is not the first time Field and Green have clashed. Before the inquiry had even begun Green called for Field to resign as co-chair of the inquiry after comments the Labour MP made in the press.
Field told the Financial Times he would recommend stripping Green of his knighthood if the billionaire did not meet the pension deficit left by the failing chain. The inquiry is ongoing.
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