MPs hear explosive evidence

How BHS died on threats, lies and broken promises

Dominic Chappell
Dominic Chappell

Former executives of failed retail chain Bhs today lined up to blame each other for its collapse.

In a series of extraordinary exchanges, MPs heard those involved accuse each other of lies and incompetence over months of negotiations and failed attempts to save the company.

Bhs is being wound down and has a £571 million pensions deficit. All 164 stores will close with 11,000 jobs likely to be lost.

Dominic Chappell who bought Bhs last year for £1 launched a critical attack on former owner Sir Philip Green, accusing him of starving the company of investment and getting rich by taking money out of companies.

Mr Chappell said that he is considering suing Green who, he said, stopped him from speaking to the pensions regulator before completing the deal.

According to Chappell, Green went “absolutely insane” when he found out Mike Ashley was in talks to buy BHS.

Darren Topp, former chief executive, accused Mr Chappell of threatening to kill him when he raised the matter of £1.5 million being moved out of the company.

Mr Chappell said that the loan was agreed by the board of Retail Acquisitions [which bought Bhs].

Mr Topp claimed: “It became clear that rather than putting money in he had got his fingers in the till”.

He admitted that during his time in charge Bhs was losing money.

“We didn’t respond quick enough, or fast enough to the changing market place. When we were competing with the likes of C&A (the Dutch chain), we did well, but conditions got harder as retail changed.”

In a further attack on Mr Chappell, Michael Hitchcock, former financial adviser to the chain, accused him of being “a Premier League liar, and a Sunday Pub League retailer, at best..”

Mr Hitchcock said Mr Chappell’s Retail Acquisitions had proposed taking profitable assets out of BHS, at a time when it desperately needed support.

British Home Stores Bhs

Mr Hitchcock was asked why anyone would do that. Mr Hitchcock replied: “I question his intelligence. He wasn’t a retailer.”

Before the hearing nine senior managers at Bhs put the blame for its collapse on Mr Chappell who admitted he had no retail experience and had been bankrupt.

In a letter to BHS staff, the manager said Mr Chappell failed to deliver the financial support he promised.

They said: “We, the management team of British Home Stores, would like to apologise to you and all our colleagues for the very sad situation we find the business in.

“The inability of RAL [Retail Acquisitions] to raise sufficient funds and dispose of key property assets, hindered the management team in delivering the turnaround plan.

“Any sums of financing raised or property disposals appeared to fall short of expectations. Under challenge, Dominic Chappell continuously assured us he would deliver on raising funds, this was not the case.”


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