Former BHS owner Sir Philip Green has vowed to “find a solution” to the collapsed department store chain’s £571m pension scheme.
Arcadia tycoon Green told a parliamentary inquiry today that he is working alongside advisers from Deloitte on a deal “to sort this in the correct way”.
During a grilling by the Work and Pensions Committee this morning, Green was on combative form as he revealed the firm was drawing up a plan similar to the Project Thor strategy he had proposed back in June 2014 to plug the black hole in BHS’s pension scheme.
Insisting the potential deal would provide a better solution for thousands of pensioners than the Pension Protection Fund, Green declared to MPs: “We want to find a solution for the 20,000 pensioners. We still believe that money into the PPF does not resolve it.
“The schemes are quite complex, but from what I’ve seen it’s resolvable, sortable.
“I want to give assurance to 20,000 pensioners that there is an idea and I am there to sort this in the correct way.
“There does seem to be light in the tunnel.”
Dressed in a dark suit, white shirt and black tie, Green read a letter from Deloitte confirming its involvement and said it had been attempting to come up with a rescue package over the past “two to three weeks”.
He added: “They are working up a plan. When they’ve got it together, they are going to present it.”
Green bullishly claimed he had received little contact from the Pensions Regulator until this week, but said: “Hopefully common sense will prevail with the regulator and we’ll get a solution.”
The retail tycoon, who sold BHS to the Retail Acquisitions for £1 in March 2015, denied accusations from consortium leader Dominic Chappell that he had prevented him from meeting with the Pensions Regulator.
Responding spikily to those claims from MP Richard Graham, Green dismissed them as “inconceivable” and “impossible”, adding that he had struggled to arrange meetings with the regulator himself.
But he refused to blame the regulator, the Pension Protection Fund, BHS pension trustees or himself over the pension deficit, but admitted “somebody was asleep at the wheel” and that “stupid, idiotic mistakes” had been made.
“I’m happy to apologise. I should have been involved early, and I wasn’t. The only time I did get involved was in 2012,” Green said of the BHS pension fund.
“Rightly or wrongly, it was not on my table.
“I’m not blaming anybody, but communication that should have happened did not happen.”