Lord Myners has hit out at Sir Philip Green over the collapse of BHS and reopened a decade-old feud between the pair over the tycoon’s failed Marks & Spencer takeover bid.
The Labour peer, who is advising a committee of MPs that will quiz Sir Philip in the coming weeks over BHS’s demise, said: “Thank goodness he didn’t succeed [in taking over M&S]. If he had done, I don’t know what would have happened to M&S.”
Lord Myners, a former M&S chairman, is best known for fighting off a £9 billion bid for the retailer from Sir Philip in 2004. The feud reached its climax when Sir Philip accused Lord Myners of being an “anti-semitic left-winger”.
The former City minister is leading a team of financial experts helping MPs from the business and pensions select committees investigate Sir Philip’s role in the collapse of BHS, which will likely result in the loss of 11,000 jobs.
Sir Philip was also urged to waive tens of millions he could be set to get from BHS’s collapse. As a secured creditor to BHS, Sir Philip’s Arcadia stands to rake in up to £35 million from the wind-down, depending on how much can be gleaned from the property and stock.
“He could give up that security and make sure the money is used for the benefit of the employees and pensioners and not claim to be in the front of the queue,” Lord Myners said.
He also questioned the tycoon’s judgment in selling BHS to former bankrupt Dominic Chappell for £1, adding: “Sir Philip Green must take some of the responsibility, not least of all selling the business to Mr Dominic Chappell, which is rather like giving the keys of your car to a five-year-old, and then allowing the five-year-old to go off and crash the car.”
On Thursday, BHS’s administrator Duff & Phelps announced the business will be wound down and all 163 shops closed and sold off to other retailers after it failed to find a buyer.
It added that 8,000 permanent jobs are likely to be lost and another 3,000 not directly employed by BHS are also at risk.
Simon Walker, head of the Institute of Directors (IoD), also laid into Sir Philip on the same programme, accusing him of a “lamentable failure of behaviour”.
He said: “We spend a lot of time agonising about the loss of trust in the business community, and I think we can see why this is. I think there is a lamentable failure of behaviour and there are a lot of questions that need to be asked.”
“You can’t just get yourself off the hook by selling a business to someone who’s been bankrupt three times and is a former racing driver with no retail experience.”
BHS leaves behind a £571 million pensions black hole, with the scheme set to enter the Pension Protection Fund. The Pensions Regulator is investigating whether Sir Philip will be made to make contributions to the pension scheme.