Pay up or see your reputation plunge, PR boss tells Sir Philip Green

Sir Philip Green's reputation as the king of retail is in ruins thanks to a damning report by MPs - and one corporate PR expert says that plugging the pension gap in his former company is the only way his image can recover.

Under fire: Sir Philip Green at his Select Committee hearing last month (credit: PAWire)
Under fire: Sir Philip Green at his Select Committee hearing last month (credit: PAWire)
A joint report today from the Business, Innovation & Skills and Work & Pensions Committees described Green as "the unacceptable face of capitalism".

The collapse of BHS in April and, in particular, the huge hole in the retailer’s pension fund saw former BHS owner Green hauled in to give evidence before a special joint session of the two committees last month.

Green, whose Arcadia retail group includes Topshop and Dorothy Perkins, sold BHS to former racing driver Dominic Chappell for £1 last year, but the subsequent collapse of the business and loss of 11,000 jobs left an estimated £570m deficit in the pension fund, affecting around 20,000 former and current workers.

In today’s report, MPs accused the high street fashion magnate of failing to plug the mounting pension deficit during his period of ownership. The report called for Green to follow his "moral duty" and financially contribute to the pension deficit, while The Pensions Regulator is reported to be deciding whether to compel him to do so.

The report also highlighted how Green withdrew more than £400m in dividends from BHS to shareholders, including family members, between 2002 and 2004.

Helen Searle, managing director, corporate at Cohn & Wolfe, said: "Every attempt by Green to apportion the blame elsewhere during his evidence session was proven futile in a report that holds him entirely personally accountable for plundering a fund of deferred pay for his own employees. There is one thing and one thing only Green can do now if he wants to recover whatever remains of his reputation, let alone hold on to his knighthood, and that is foot the bill for his own wrongdoing and plug the fund gap."

The Select Committee report was trending on Twitter this morning, with several commentators, including Newsnight editor Ian Katz, offering Green PR advice.
Frank Field, chairman of the Work and Pensions Committee, said Green’s "reputation as the king of retail lies in the ruins of BHS".

Green’s knighthood is now under review by the Cabinet Office, it has been reported, and the matter has also attracted the attention of several regulatory bodies, including the Financial Reporting Council.

The damning conclusions come in the wake of Friday’s report, also from the Business and Skills Committee, which said Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley had run his business like a Victorian workhouse and had treated workers "without dignity or respect".

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