LONDON — Sir Philip Green admitted to British parliamentarians on Wednesday that he erred in selling his ailing retailer BHS to Dominic Chappell, a twice-bankrupt investor with no previous retail experience.
“What happened to BHS was beyond horrible — and sad,” said Green, who sold the business last year for 1 pound, or $1.50, to a consortium led by Chappell, who earlier this year declared the U.K. equivalent of Chapter 11. Up to 11,000 jobs will be lost as a result.
“Unfortunately we found the wrong guy. I am sorry we did the deal and I would not do it again,” added Green, who was grilled on Wednesday by the joint parliamentary committee that’s investigating the BHS drama.
The committee, which has been hearing evidence from Green at Portcullis House in Westminster, overlooking the Thames, is also looking into a 571 million pound, or $822 million, hole in the BHS pension fund, which swelled under Green’s watch.
The colorful — and often explosive — Green didn’t lose his cool and even poked fun at some of the committee members who peppered him with questions. “Put your glasses back on,” he said to one. “You look better that way.”
As for the pension gap, Green said — repeatedly — that he’s working to fill it.
“I have never run away from looking into solutions to the pension fund. I am prepared to sort this out, and find a solution for the 20,000 pensioners. The problem is resolvable, and I am there to sort it out,” he said.
Wednesday morning marked the first time that Green was able to speak in public — and in-depth — about his long-term management and sale last year of BHS.
He has previously asked for one of the committee chairs, Labour MP Frank Field, to step down from the committee, accusing him of making unfair comments and carrying out a trial by press.
The joint parliamentary investigation is one of five probes underway by bodies including the British government and the pensions regulator.
MPs have already heard from a variety of people including Ian Grabiner, chief executive officer of Green’s Arcadia Group, parent of Topshop and Topman; Paul Budge, Arcadia’s finance director; Gillian Hague, Arcadia’s financial controller, and Chris Harris, the retailer’s property director.