The war of words between billionaire Sir Philip Green and Labour MP Frank Field continues, with the retail tycoon the latest to launch a verbal assault.
Sir Philip Green issued a statement accusing Field of making “untrue, totally inaccurate and unhelpful” comments on the BHS pension issue in the House of Commons on Wednesday.
Field, who cochaired the Parliamentary into the collapse of BHS earlier this year, has repeatedly accused Green of not doing enough to tackle BHS’ pension problem and has accused him of “nicking” from BHS and being an asset stripper.
Green said during the Parliamentary inquiry he would “sort” the pension problem but Field has accused him of dragging his feet and repeatedly called for Green to simply write a cheque to cover the shortfall.
Sir Philip issued a statement on Friday morning through his PR company attacking Field and insisting he is doing everything he can to plug the pension gap. He says that legal hurdles and delays with the regulator are holding up the process, not him.
The Daily Mail recently accused Sir Philip of “blackmailing” the pensions regulator in a recent report and Green also hits back at these allegations, saying they are “wholly untrue.”
Here’s the full statement:
“I find it necessary, based on the continued press coverage together with various statements from Frank Field MP, to clarify the current position.
“I, together with my executives, have been co-operating with the Pensions Regulator for some 17 to 18 months providing whatever has been requested, on a very regular basis. As Lesley Titcomb, Chief Executive of the Pensions Regulator, stated at the Work and Pensions Select Committee hearing, they had already received more than 70,000 documents in May and there has continued to be a flow since then.
“I stated at the hearing that it was my intention to try to find a solution, which is a voluntary one, to the Bhs Pensions and that is still my aim.
“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. 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.
“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. This is untrue, totally inaccurate and unhelpful in solving this issue.
“There have also been suggestions in the press that I have tried to pressurize 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. I am following the process which has been set down by the Regulator. Pensions are extremely complex issues, especially when there are more than 20,000 members involved.
“I would like to apologise sincerely to all the Bhs people involved in this sorry affair. 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 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.