Former BHS boss Sir Philip Green hits back at MPs over 'trial by media'

Sir Philip Green is fighting back against MPs whom he accuses of engaging in a "trial by media" against him over the collapse of BHS.

Green: hitting back (Credit: Edward Smith/PA Archive/Press Association Images)
Green: hitting back (Credit: Edward Smith/PA Archive/Press Association Images)

The billionaire former owner of the high street retailer, which is now in administration, is under scrutiny for having taken hundreds of millions in dividends before selling the chain last year for £1.

He is understood to have offered £80m towards protecting the pensions of 11,000 BHS workers, but this is a fraction of the £571m pension fund deficit and the businessman is set to appear before a joint evidence session of the House of Commons work and pensions and business select committees next month.

In a letter to the committee chairs Frank Field MP and Iain Wright MP yesterday, Green claimed to have been the victim of "inaccurate and misleading" reports.

He stated his "concerns about various statements you have made in the press (for example, calling for me to lose my knighthood or suggesting that I have asset stripped BHS without regard to pensions and employees)".

Such statements suggested "there will be no real attempt to run your inquiries in a fair way and that the outcome is pre-determined", he argued.

"Witnesses will be less willing to offer your committees their assistance if the committee chairs do not act in a responsible way, in particular appearing to encourage public vilification of witnesses before the inquiries have even begun," warned Green. "I would like your assurances please that you will cease this trial by media."

This comes after Green called for Field to resign from the work and pensions select committee in response to remarks made by the Labour MP yesterday.

"Philip Green has a moral duty to make good the pension scheme and if he doesn’t… I personally would recommend he should lose his knighthood," said Field.

Green branded the comments an "outrageous outburst" and demanded the MP "stand down from the inquiry immediately, as he is clearly prejudiced".

The war of words comes amid a series of probes into the BHS collapse, with investigations under way by the Insolvency Service and the Pensions Regulator.

The controversy will impact on Green and his "reputation as a high street supremo," according to Lauren Winter, director of brand marketing at FleishmanHillard Fishburn. Writing in PRWeek last week, she predicted that the "focus will move to the Arcadia chief’s role in the demise of this institution".

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