Sir Philip Green admitted his retail chains had not moved quickly enough to adapt to the changing high street after creditors backed a restructuring plan that will involve the closure of 50 Arcadia Group stores and 1,000 job losses.
In an interview with BBC radio 4’s Today programme, he vowed to “get to work, grasp this new marketplace and get on with the job” to get Arcadia back on track. The company owns the Topshop, Burton, Dorothy Perkins, Topman, Wallis, Evans, Outfit and Miss Selfridge chains.
Green said: “The marketplace… has fundamentally changed forever. Whether we haven’t changed quickly enough or we had too many shops or whatever, I think it’s a combination of a lot of things. The answer is you can’t get it all right. For a long time the company made a lot of money, literally only in the last couple of years it fell off.”
As part of Wednesday’s rescue deal, Arcadia pledged to spend £135m on a turnaround plan, including £50m in revamping dowdy stores, to help it compete with rivals such as Asos, Zara and H&M.
Using expletives, the entrepreneur said the British public did not trust him because the media “make them all f**** jealous, it’s quite basic. These people writing all this shit couldn’t spell 50 quid. They all get jealous. The fact that someone can actually can write out a cheque and writes one out, people don’t like it.” He was referring to his £363m payment into the BHS pension fund in 2017 after coming under pressure from the Pensions Regulator.
Green, who was long known as the “king of the high street,” has come under a barrage of criticism in recent years for pursuing a lavish lifestyle on his yacht in Monaco while his retail empire struggled. His other retail acquisition, BHS, went bust in 2016 after he sold it to a former bankrupt for £1. In 2005, Green and his wife paid themselves a £1.2bn dividend from Arcadia, the biggest corporate payout in British history.
“That was 14 years ago,” he retorted in the BBC interview.
He denied that Arcadia had come close to collapse. Landlords of its 570 UK standalone stores approved the complex rescue plan on Wednesday, avoiding a collapse into administration that would have threatened a further 17,000 jobs.
However, the former billionaire said: “It didn’t come close to collapse – we won the vote. It was a legitimate vote and it was won. Many more landlords clearly voted yes than no.”
The creditors’ meeting had been adjourned last week and to win over landlords, the Green family offered to put up about £9.5m a year over three years to reduce rent cuts for landlords to 25%-50% from the £30% to 70% previously planned. Green’s Monaco-based wife, Tina, who is the official owner of Arcadia, also agreed to pump £100m into the pension scheme over three years.
Green told the BBC: “You don’t want to end up having a car crash, do you? You don’t want to be in business and then see an ugly car crash and all the people out of work and you could have assisted, for however you got there, to rescue the business, why would you want to see that?”