Sir Philip Green asked bankers to help him find a buyer for his Arcadia fashion empire, leaked emails have suggested. 

According to the message dated February 2016, obtained by The Sunday Times, HSBC’s UK chief executive, Ian Stuart, and managing director, David Barraclough, met Green to discuss his succession plan and the potential sale of the business.

The email, sent by Barraclough to his colleagues, describes Green as “distracted” by the collapse of BHS, which sparked 11,000 job losses.

The Arcadia owner also appeared “concerned” by Arcadia’s growing pension deficit, which at the time was set to hit £900m.

Green reportedly realised he would have to sell Topshop to plug the gap, potentially to a Chinese buyer.

In the email, Barraclough details the plan: “The strategy should be to sell Topshop/Topman separate to the rest of the Arcadia portfolio of lesser brands.

“Whilst the Topshop/Topman sale should be straightforward, he accepts residual Arcadia will be a tougher ask and may need to be sold by way of individual brands over a protracted period.”

Any proceeds from such a sale would have been used to plug the Arcadia pension deficit.

Last week, Green vehemently denied plans to sell Arcadia to Chinese textiles group Shandong Ruyi.

The latter also denied any involvement in buyout talks.