Philip Green: Topshop empire ‘didn’t come close to collapse’

Media captionThe retail tycoon said the media was to blame for the public’s lack of trust in him

Sir Philip Green has thanked landlords and suppliers who backed the deal that saved his retail empire.

In an interview with the BBC, he batted away the suggestion the Topshop group had been on the point of going bust in typically combative style.

“It didn’t come close to collapse – we won the vote.”

He also defended pouring several hundred million pounds of his own money into Arcadia to keep it afloat, saying it had stopped “an ugly car crash”.

“You don’t want to see… all the people out of work when you could have assisted to rescue the business.”

He did however acknowledge that the retail landscape had changed and that he had been slow to react.

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“The market place has changed forever – people want a different kind of service. Should we have seen that three or four years ago – maybe. But now we need to get on with the job”

Arcadia, whose brands also include Topman, Dorothy Perkins and Wallis, is hardly the first high street operator to suffer in recent years, but Sir Philip Green’s one time status as “King of the High Street”, a flamboyant lifestyle along with a series of allegations of racial and sexual harassment have singled him out for special attention.

But Sir Philip said that it was testament to the amount his suppliers trusted him that they continued to deliver stock to the stores when the company looked on the brink of administration.

Why then, does the British public not feel the same trust?

He said the media were to blame.

“Because you lot make them all… jealous, that’s why – it’s pretty basic. They don’t like people who can write cheques.” Sir Philip personally paid £363m into the pension scheme of BHS after the company he sold for £1 collapsed.

Given the bruising both his business and he personally have suffered in recent years, I asked him whether there was a moment when he considered throwing in the towel?

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“People who know me know that’s not my style – why would I want to do that.”

Sir Philip’s empire is diminished. Fifty out of 566 stores are to close and there may be more – but it is still intact. A huge relief for his thousands of workers.

But some wonder whether Sir Philip, who still calls the shots but rarely visits the UK and comes from a very different retailing era, is the right person to take this business into the future.

He, of course, disagrees.

“You can’t get it all right. For a long time the company made a lot of money, and only in the last couple of years it fell off.”

He added: “We had votes on seven CVAs, and we won 7-0. This is a positive news story. Here is a business trading in 30 countries.”