- BHS boss Darren Topp says Dominic Chappell had ”no distinction” between retailer’s funds and his own
- Topp accuses Chappell of attempting to pay for family holiday flights on BHS expenses budget
- He also alleges that Chappell took a £90,000 loan from BHS to pay off a peronal tax bill
- Chappell denies allegations, dismissing them as “pathetic and petty”
- Comes as MP Frank Field calls on Chappell to “account fully and properly for their decisions and actions”
BHS boss Darren Topp has accused former owner Dominic Chappell of spending the retailer’s money as if it were his personal funds.
In new evidence submitted to MPs, Topp has alleged that Chappell “attempted to buy a set of family holiday flights in December 2015 on the company travel budget”.
Topp is said to have thwarted this plan “much to the annoyance” of Chappell, who fronted the Retail Acquisitions consortium that acquired BHS from Sir Philip Green for a nominal £1 in March last year.
Topp’s evidence goes on to claim that Chappell instead sought to take his December salary early ahead of his family holiday to the Bahamas, which the retailer’s HR department approved on the grounds of “hardship”.
The new evidence, which was published today, also suggested that Chappell took a personal loan of £90,000 from BHS in order to pay a tax bill.
BHS finance boss Michael Hitchcock was abroad on a personal skiing trip at the time of the loan, which was approved by Retail Acquisitions chief financial officer Aiden Treacy, according to Topp.
The BHS boss added that the loan, in January 2016, was taken at a time when “cash resources were limited” and were needed in order to pay “both suppliers and employees payroll”. The loan is said to have been returned after BHS sought legal advice.
‘No distinction’ between money
Topp said: “Chappell saw no distinction between the company’s money and his own personal money – he saw them as one and the same. The level of financial governance shown by Chappell was very poor.”
Topp goes on to slam Chappell for creating an “us and them” culture within the business, separating BHS staff from a “close team made up of friends and family” within Retail Acquisitions.
Chappell denied the allegations, labelling them “pathetic and petty.”
He told the BBC “there was no intent whatsoever to have the company pay for my private travel.” Chappell claimed he did not have access to his credit cards when he was making the booking, but planned to pay BHS back in full.
He added: “At no stage have I ever used the company bank account as a private account for myself and all every payment except two went through the normal BHS process and system.”
The new evidence was published as MPs continue their probe into the demise of BHS, which tumbled into administration in April.
Chappell has already given evidence to the joint Business, Innovation and Skills Committee and Work and Pensions Committee, but the allegations from Topp will raise further questions about his management of BHS.
“Retail Acquisitions should account fully and properly for their decisions and actions, some of which appear quite extraordinary”
Frank Field MP
MP Iain Wright and Frank Field, who chair the respective committees, have since written to Chappell to raise six further questions, including querying who sat on the remuneration committee that authorised his salary payment of £650,000.
Field called on Chappell and Retail Acquisitions to “account fully and properly for their decisions and actions”, which he described as “extraordinary”.
He said: “While the main focus of this inquiry has been the stewardship of BHS and its pension fund in the run-up to the sale to Retail Aquisitions, and the exact circumstances of that sale, the directors of Retail Aquisitions – who were paid very handsomely for their role in the sale – cannot escape scrutiny for the plight of BHS and its pension fund.
“We are still elucidating the full story of the final collapse of BHS, but it happened under Dominic Chappell and Retail Aquisition’s stewardship – they should also account fully and properly for their decisions and actions, some of which appear quite extraordinary.”