Months after the collapse of BHS, Sir Philip Green has revealed that Olswang and Grant Thornton charged purchaser Retail Acquisitions Limited a collective £8.4m for the transaction.
During an investigation into the demise of BHS, MPs led by Labour MP Frank Field called on the law firms involved to disclose further details of their dealings. Linklaters and Nabarro released what they billed at £1.2m and £217,000 respectively to their clients, Green’s Arcadia Group and Taveta Group.
Olswang had refused to provide details of its fees and cited client privilege.
Speaking in his first major interview since the event to ITV News yesterday (18 October), Green (pictured), who has faced criticism for his role in BHS’s demise, said both Olswang and Grant Thornton were ‘well regarded professional firms, that weren’t afraid to charge…they charged £8.4m for their services.’
Green further stated that ‘these two companies never got interviewed by the Select Committee, or the correct people didn’t get interviewed by the Select Committee, in spite of Mr Field stating, when he was told I don’t want reserves from the bench, he never called for the two principle people from the two companies to ask they what work they had done/ hadn’t done.’
Stressing that while he wasn’t ‘making an excuse’ he felt that ‘with two prominent advisers, there were two or three other lawyers in the team…we felt they had relevant people around them, there were different letters that came, different views, letters came on finance being offered, so we thought there was a good opportunity for someone to take the business forward, with money, that was provided and give it a fresh start. Unfortunately that didn’t work out.’
Green, who chairs the Arcadia Group which includes Topshop and Burton, bought British Home Stores in 2000 for £200 million, rebranding it BHS. Having faced intense market competition in 2006, the business was eventually sold to Retail Acquisitions, led by Dominic Chappell, for £1 in 2015. Chappell told the inquiry in June he was considering legal action against Green.
A plan to turn BHS around failed and it collapsed into administration in April 2016, with many blaming Green for taking big dividends and leaving the company with a huge pension deficit.
Green has since commissioned the legal opinion of Lord David Pannick QC of Blackstone Chambers who dismissed the conclusions of the inquiry criticising Green over the fall of BHS, describing it as ‘bizarre,’ ‘unstoppable,’ and ‘beset by serious factual errors.’
It comes ahead of a House of Commons vote on Green’s conduct, which will determine whether he can keep his knighthood.