Sir Philip Green, best known for turning British high street brand Topshop into an international powerhouse, is under intense scrutiny in his home country for his mishandling of retailer BHS. On Thursday, things went from bad to worse: The UK's House of Commons unanimously voted to strip him of his knighthood, according to a report by The Guardian.
The issue at play is the closure of BHS, British Home Store, which Green acquired in 2000 and brought under the Arcadia umbrella in 2009. Despite a £571 million pension scheme deficit, Green sold the business in 2015 to Retail Acquisitions Ltd for £1. (Yes, one whole pound.) In 2016, the business entered acquisition, with all stores and the website closed by this past August. Those closures lead to an eye-watering 11,000 job losses.
During the proceedings, Labour MP (member of Parliament) David Winnick slammed Green, calling him a "billionaire spiv" — British slang meaning "a man, typically characterized by flashy dress, who makes a living by disreputable dealings" — who has "shamed British capitalism." A report from a committee which investigated the proceedings found that BHS was under "systematic plunder" by Green. MP Frank Field, the chair of the work and pensions committee who lead the parliamentary inquiry into BHS's collapse, recently gave an interview in which he claimed Green "is running the Arcadia group into the ground like BHS."
For his part, Green has hit back, issuing a letter claiming Field's "highly defamatory and false statements" are "causing distress to Arcadia's employees and other parties." Green and his advisors have reportedly been working with the Pensions Regulator for months now to "sort out" the £571 million deficit. The Pensions Regulator issued its own statement claiming it has "yet to receive a comprehensive and credible written proposal" from Green's team.
Green also faces vocal criticism for sheltering his company under his wife's name; as she lives in Monaco, the family pays little taxes. In addition to Topshop and Topman, Arcadia Group also owns Miss Selfridge, Evans, Dorothy Perkins and Beyoncé's activewear line Ivy Park.
The vote to strip Green of his knighthood is not binding; the Honours Forfeiture Committee must make that recommendation at the request of the prime minister, and the monarch is given sole authority on the final decision. Green was knighted by former Prime Minister Tony Blair in 2006 for services to retail.