Sir Philip Green’s campaign to protect his knighthood continued on Thursday, with the retail billionaire attacking Labour MP Frank Field for “highly defamatory and false” comments in a TV interview.
A letter from Taveta Investments, the Green family’s company, was circulated to journalists on Thursday morning. It says comments made by Labour’s Field to Channel 4 News about Arcadia, Green’s retail business, and Sir Philip Green as “libelous and false.”
Business Insider contacted Field and the Work and Pensions Select Committee but both he and the committee representative were not immediately available for comment.
The letter is part of an aggressive public relations campaign mounted by Sir Philip this week ahead of a vote in parliament on Thursday on whether Sir Philip should be stripped of his knighthood over his role in the collapse of BHS.
The retail billionaire has already commissioned lawyers to attack the parliamentary report into the collapse and given a contrite TV interview. The BBC reports on Thursday that Green is also set to meet with The Pensions Regulator at the end of the week as part of his efforts to “sort” the estimated £275 million black hole in the BHS pension fund.
The Taveta letter follows an interview with Labour’s Frank Field on Channel 4 News on Wednesday night. Field chaired the parliamentary inquiry into the collapse of BHS, which Sir Philip owned from 2000 until last year.
Field told Channel 4 News he thinks Sir Philip is “running the Arcadia group into the ground like BHS,” implying workers would be sacked and the pension fund cut like BHS. (Arcadia is Green’s main operating company and owns brands like Topshop and Dorothy Perkins.)
Taveta, which owns Arcadia, says its board “takes great offence” at these comments and slams them as inaccurate. The letter says Field’s “unwarranted” behaviour is “causing distress” to Arcadia’s 22,000 employees.
Field also told Channel 4 News he did not regret accusing Sir Philip of “nicking other people’s money,” comparing him to Robert Maxwell (who stole money from the Mirror Group pension fund), and “plundering these assets.”
Taveta says the allegations are “false and malicious” and says “it is perfectly clear that you are now goading Sir Philip and Arcadia to sue you.”
Sir Philip threatened to sue Field earlier in the year and Taveta says litigation was only avoided after Field’s lawyers sent a letter assuring Sir Philip he was not accusing him of theft. Thursday’s letter adds: “We do not wish to waste our time getting into litigation with you at this stage.”
Taveta says it is publishing the letter “to correct yet again your libelous and false statement.”
The letter is the latest attempt by Sir Philip to salvage his reputation and protect his knighthood. The retail billionaire has been savaged by the parliamentary inquiry into BHS, which accused him and later owner Dominic Chappell of “systematic plunder” of the department store. MPs blamed chronic under-investment for the chain’s collapse in April this year.
Sir Philip has repeatedly butted heads with Frank Field, calling for the MP for Birkenhead to resign as chair of the BHS committee even before the inquiry had begun.