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8 Jun 2016 04:30pm

Chappell accuses Sir Philip Green of forcing BHS into administration and blocking rescue sale to Mike Ashley

Dominic Chappell appeared before MPs today and shifted the blame for the collapse of BHS onto Sir Philip Green

Chappell told a panel of MPs that BHS could have been saved if Sir Philip Green had assisted Chappell and Retail Acquisitions Limited (RAL) instead of calling in the administrators.

He said he strongly believed “there was a credible and viable solution that we could have worked our way through” but that Green “thought we would fail”.

He told the joint committee of MPs that he originally had a “good working relationship” with Green, adding that he spoke to him every other day during his first year of owning the company but in the end Green referred BHS to the administrators after their relationship had broken down.

Chappell also claimed that although Green had been removed from the business and had toppled the company into administration, it was he who appointed Duff and Phelps – who he referred to as “his ponies” according to Chappell – as administrators of the retailer.

We fought tooth and nail for this company right up until the final hour

Dominic Chappell

Chappell said the chosen administrators “do exactly what Philip tells them to do” and he also claimed that the liquidators are “very much part of Philip’s team”.

Chappell claimed Green deliberately “tipped BHS over”.

He added that he approached Mike Ashley of Sports Direct about saving the business before it entered administration but that Green blocked the deal and refused to have any involvement with Ashley and that he subsequently served the notice that tipped BHS into administration.

“There was a willing buyer and a willing seller for the business and Mike was going to save the business,” he told the committee.

“Sir Philip found out about it, and made it clear he didn't want to get involved with Mike Ashley,” he added.

“Days before administrators were called in, Mike Ashley was prepared to buy BHS and safeguard all the stores and all the jobs.”

"That was stopped because of Philip," Chappell said.

The committee asked Chappell if he felt Green had “set him up”.

Chappell replied, "I think Philip genuinely thought that we would fail. But he sold it to us nevertheless."

Chappell said his original plan was to buy BHS "debt-free and pension-free", but that was stopped by Sir Philip.

He added that the "continuous battering of the pension regulator and Philip" was key to the business failing.

Chappel said he “firmly” believes Green is responsible for 11,000 people left without a job following the closure of BHS.

He said he was open with Green about his former bankruptcies and claimed the retail tycoon would have liquidated BHS had RAL not bought the retailer for £1 back in March 2015.

He confirmed that he had no retail experience but added that BHS had a full retail management team who he said were more than capable of running the retail side of the business.

Chappell said Green felt he was unable to save BHS because of his status and that no landlord would be willing to negotiate rents, given Green’s links to the highly profitable Arcadia Group.

He said there was a definite sense of speed and haste by Green to get the transaction closed quickly.

The joint committees suggested that Green helped turn Chappell into a credible buyer to facilitate a quick sale.

Chappell said that if there was a normal three-month run-in into the deal then RAL could have looked at the pension deficit in greater depth and could have secured a proper corporate structure for the company.

"We fought tooth and nail for this company right up until the final hour", he said.

He added that RAL's mistake was not raising more money to protect the business. He also admitted that RAL was part of the downfall of BHS and apologised for the “avoidable” loss of 11,000 jobs.

Sinead Moore

 

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