UK billionaire under pressure in sexual harassment case
Sir Philip Green faces calls to lose knighthood in latest scandal to hit the retail magnate
The billionaire businessman Sir Philip Green faced calls for his state-endowed knighthood to be stripped after he was named as the most high-profile Briton to be embroiled in the worldwide movement against sexual harassment.
The retail magnate nearly lost his title following the collapse of clothing chain BHS that made his fortune and his naming on Thursday in parliament reignited demands from MPs for the honour awarded by Queen Elizabeth in 2006 to be removed.
The former Labour minister Lord Hain used parliamentary privilege to name Sir Philip after five women were paid “substantial payments” to settle claims of “discreditable conduct” against Sir Philip.
The case came to light earlier this week after a court ruled that The Daily Telegraph, which had been investigating the allegations, could not identify Sir Philip or print allegations against him of sexual harassment, racial abuse and bullying because of so-called “non-disclosure” agreements signed by the women. It is claimed Sir Philip spent more than £500,000 on legal fees to acquire a gagging order against the media.
The case is likely to focus the spotlight again on practices in Britain’s boardrooms amid questions of how widespread the gagging clauses are used to silence staff with grievances against highly-paid management.
Hidden practices within the City were exposed in January after young women hostesses were harassed at a men-only fund-raising event attended by Sir Philip. He dismissed the furore over the Presidents Club dinner and suggested it was a case of overblown “political correctness”.
He now faces demands for his title to be revoked, a rare event that has been used against former Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe and the financier Fred Goodwin, who oversaw the calamitous decline of the Royal Bank of Scotland during the financial crash.
Frank Field, the MP who led an inquiry into the collapse of BHS, said: “The charge sheet against the knighthood is growing. Parliament and the country have made their views clear on this matter.”
Sir Philip, 66, a larger than life figure in the British business sector, is a regular fixture on the London social circuit accompanied by high-profile models and celebrities.
He is chairman of the Arcadia Group which controls some of the biggest names on the British high street including fashion chains Topshop and Dorothy Perkins.
Sir Philip, who is reputed to be worth almost $5 million, is a well-known figure in Monaco, where he has a home with his wife, Lady Tina, who he married in 1990. She is understood to be a shrewd businesswoman with control over the empire.
Sir Philip’s star has waned since the failure of BHS which he sold for £1 in 2015. It went into administration the following year with the loss of 11,000 jobs. He later agreed to pay £363 million into the company’s ailing pension fund.
In a statement issued on Thursday, Sir Philip said: “To the extent that it is suggested that I have been guilty of unlawful sexual or racist behaviour, I categorically and wholly deny these allegations.”
He said that he and his company, Arcadia, “take accusations and grievances from employees very seriously and in the event that one is raised, it is thoroughly investigated.
“Arcadia employs more than 20,000 people and in common with many large businesses sometimes receives formal complaints from employees.
“In some cases these are settled with the agreement of all parties and their legal advisers. These settlements are confidential so I cannot comment further on them.”
Updated: October 26, 2018 01:04 PM