Philip Green urged to sell super-yacht to save Arcadia staff pensions

Kate Ng
·4-min read
<p>Arcadia chairman Philip Green</p> (Reuters)

Arcadia chairman Philip Green

(Reuters)

Sir Philip Green is facing outrage at his silence over the collapse of the Arcadia Group, as staff, MPs and unions call on him to plug the company’s busted pension scheme with his own money.

One member of staff said the businessman should sell his £100m super-yacht in Monaco, where he has resided since 1998, to help the 13,000 employees who face redundancy.

A petition calling on the government’s Forfeiture Committee to strip Sir Philip of his knighthood — which he was granted in 2006 “for services to the retail industry” — has also been launched online, garnering more than 1,000 signatures at the time of writing.

Arcadia, which includes high street brands Topshop, Dorothy Perkins and Burton, crashed into administration on Monday. While the company searches for a buyer for all or parts of it, employees who enrolled in Arcadia pension schemes have an uncertain future.

If the company’s pension schemes go into the official rescue scheme, the Pension Protection Fund, staff could lose at least 10 per cent of what they were originally promised when they retire. The group’s pension scheme is operating under an estimated £350m deficit.

Watch: Arcadia owner Lady Christina Green to bring forward £50m pension fund payment

The business secretary, Alok Sharma, has written to the government’s Insolvency Service, asking it to look at the conduct of directors at Arcadia to see “whether their actions caused detriment to pension schemes”.

The Green family pledged on Wednesday to pay a previously promised £50m into the scheme within the next 10 days, nine months earlier than scheduled, but concerns remain that funding will fall short.

One employee, speaking anonymously, told the BBC: “I have a pension, but I’m not sure what’s going to happen to it. I think we may be out of a job."

“I think [Philip Green] should sell his yacht and take money out of his own pocket to help his staff, to make sure people aren’t going to be without money for Christmas.”

On Wednesday, the shadow business secretary, Ed Miliband, said Sir Philip owes a “moral duty” to his staff to cover the shortfall in the Arcadia pension scheme and urged the government to ensure he protects employees’ pensions.

Mr Miliband told MPs in the Commons that Sir Philip’s family took the “largest dividend in history”, worth £1.2bn, from the company – over three times the size of the pensions deficit.

“The workers at Arcadia should not pay the price of Philip Green’s greed. So will the minister now publicly call for him to make good any shortfall in the pensions scheme and will he ensure that the Pensions Regulator takes all possible steps to make sure this happens?”

Business minister Paul Scully said those already in receipt of their pension will continue to be paid, while other members will receive “at least Pension Protection Fund compensation levels”.

Responding for the government, he said: “The independent Pensions Regulator has a range of powers to protect pensions schemes and it does work closely with those involved.”

He added that ministers “stand ready” to support workers whose jobs are at risk because of the collapse of the Arcadia Group and Debenhams this week.

Sir Philip has used his own money to make good a pension scheme deficit in the past. In 2016, when BHS collapsed, he was forced to pay £363m into the company’s pension scheme after he sold it to Dominic Chappell for £1 in the previous year.

Last year, Lady Green, Sir Philip’s wife and the owner of Arcadia until it entered administration this week, committed to pumping £100m into the retail empire’s pensions scheme.

Two separate instalments of £25m have already been paid to the deficit-plagued scheme, and she confirmed on Wednesday that a further instalment of £50m which had been due in September 2021 would be brought forward to this month.

Labour MP Stephen Timms, head of the Work and Pensions Select Committee, said it was “unquestionably a moral case for the Green family to do the right thing”.

The prime minister, Boris Johnson, said the conduct of Arcadia directors would be examined, telling MPs on Wednesday that the government “will be doing everything we can to restore the high streets of this country”.

Watch: UK's biggest and soon-closing department store, Debenham's, sees huge queues in Londoon

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