Sir Philip Green, the former owner of British Homes Stores, claimed in a work and pensions select committee meeting today (15 June) that he had no knowledge of the pension scheme deficit until 2012.
At the end of April this year, the regulator was rumoured to be considering whether Sir Philip Green should be made to put more funds into the retailer’s scheme to fill a pension deficit of half a billion pounds.
Sir Philip sold department store chain BHS to an investment vehicle called Retail Acquisitions Ltd in March 2015.
BHS officially went into administration in April, after 88 years of business, putting 11,000 jobs at risk.
Speaking today in front of MPs, Mr Green said: “I’m afraid to say I had no knowledge of the pension fund until 2012 - I should have been involved before then.
“I wasn’t involved in it - it was not on my table.”
Responding to a question from the committee on whether he could answer any questions on the pension fund between 2000 and 2012, he said: “Virtually no”.
Mr Green added: “Nobody drew attention to the growing pension deficit. It is my fault. It wasn’t dealt with, we are here, we have to find a solution.”
Amongst many questions he was asked, Mr Green said he was unable to recollect and did not know the answer to many involving the retailer’s pension scheme.
In response to a query from an MP about the pension scheme, he said: “You cannot run a business of this size by yourself. I was not actively involved in pension conversations.”
“The reality is if the world were perfect they (trustees) should have spoken to us about this on day one and we wouldn’t be here.
“The trustees are very different from the company.”
He added that there were very substantial monies paid to third party advisers, and that “sadly nobody ever came to us and said we should be doing X”.
Earlier this month, an adviser to BHS said The Pensions Regulator and the Pension Protection Fund were “not fit for the current commercial world”, after they refused a plan that could have prevented the BHS pension scheme from entering the PPF.
Previously giving evidence to MPs on the committee, Michael Hitchcock, who was employed as an adviser to BHS in August 2015, said the company’s rescue plan, Project Vera, involved imposing a 7 per cent “haircut” to pension benefits.
Richard Ross, director of Norfolk-based Chadwicks, said while he could accept Sir Philip did not know the details of the pension scheme he finds it hard to accept he had no knowledge of the overall position.
He said: “The liability has been set out clearly annually in the company’s accounts – typically taking up four pages of a 20-page document.