The ex-property director of BHS claims former owner Sir Philip Green “couldn’t quite let go” of the department store after selling it for £1 last year.
Mark Sherwood, who joined BHS after its sale to Dominic Chappell last year, told MPs on Wednesday he was contacted by Sir Philip after the sale for updates on the business but he “shut that down.”
MPs are probing the collapse of BHS, which will likely put 11,000 Brits out of work and leaves an estimated pension black hole of £275 million ($369 million).
Sherwood told the inquiry: “My impression was he just couldn’t quite let go. It was kind of his baby, I felt. He still wanted to know what was going on.”
Dominic Chappell, who bought BHS from Sir Philip, has already told MPs he was in close contact with Sir Philip after the sale, saying he wanted to know what was going on.
Chappell has accused the tycoon of pulling the plug on BHS this April by calling in administrators. Sir Philip’s Arcadia Group was still owed a debt by BHS that allowed it to do this. Sir Philip has denied to MPs that he was behind the collapse of BHS.
Chappell is a former racing driver who has twice been bankrupt and had no retail experience when he took over BHS. Sir Philip Green, Arcadia, and BHS’ former management have all blamed Chappell for the department store’s collapse.
However, Sherwood, who worked with Chappell on the turnaround plan, defended the former owner. He told MPs: “I think that there is no reason why it couldn’t have worked with Dominic Chappell as the owner. There’s been a lot of talk about bringing in a big hitting retail chairman. We really missed that.”
Sherwood said he first met Chappell socially and got to know him through sailing, a hobby which they both enjoyed. He told MPs: “I viewed him as an entrepreneur. I understood he had done work in North Africa, he had good connections in the Middle East and had an oil project somewhere in Europe.
“He certainly seemed to have the appearance of someone who was successful at what they do.”