A large cast of characters featured in the bleak plot of BHS’s high-street demise. One year on, what’s happened to them all?
Sir Philip Green
Sir Philip hasn’t gone anywhere. Slathered across every newspaper, he was thrust into the spotlight more than anyone else following the collapse of BHS just a year after selling the department store business for £1.
Even when attempting to escape the media furore on the peaceful surrounds of one of his super-yachts, Green – dubbed ‘Sir Shifty’ by The Daily Mail – was hunted down and probed by Sky News.
“The tycoon’s knighthood looks safer following his provision of cash and he will hope to return to focusing on running his Arcadia fashion empire rather than facing hostile questions from parliamentarians and the media”
But the Arcadia tycoon did give angry MPs and former BHS employees the answers they sought – almost a year later – when he voluntarily stumped up £363m to settle the BHS pension scheme.
The tycoon’s knighthood looks safer following his provision of cash and he will hope to return to focusing on running his Arcadia fashion empire rather than facing hostile questions from parliamentarians and the media.
The billionaire has plenty of work on his plate. A number of his key Arcadia managers have exited in recent months, including Topshop managing director Mary Homer.
The former BHS owner and head of Retail Acquisitions has not covered himself in glory since the department store chain entered administration on his watch.
Chappell was a key focus of the subsequent parliamentary inquiry into BHS’s demise and, despite protesting his innocence in the sorry saga, was deemed by MPs to have effectively “had his hands in the till”.
“The former racing car driver seems so keen to speed away from any responsibility for the demise of the retailer that earlier this month the Insolvency Service sought a court order to force him to help with its inquiry”
More recently the multiple-bankrupt Chappell has made headlines for refusing to pay his alleged share of the BHS pension deficit, claiming that all responsibility for the business’s collapse lies at Arcadia owner Green’s door.
The former racing car driver seems so keen to speed away from any responsibility for the demise of the retailer that earlier this month the Insolvency Service sought a court order to force him to help with its inquiry.
A hearing is scheduled for the end of April.
The investment vehicle that snapped up BHS in 2015 comprised chairman Keith Smith, directors Stephen Bourne and Dominic Chappell, solicitors Mark Tasker and Edward Parladorio and company director Lennart Henningson.
None of the members of the motley crew had any previous experience in retail prior to the acquisition and, by the time BHS entered administration, both Bourne and Tasker had resigned.
Since then the remaining players, with the exception of Chappell, have kept a low profile.
Parladorio is now a senior partner at legal firm Hanover Bond Law, while there is no indication that either Smith or Henningson have moved on to other businesses since the collapse of the department store group.
Duff & Phelps
The firm was appointed by Green to handle the administration of BHS. However, when the company’s independence from the Arcadia boss was questioned, the Pension Protection Fund appointed FRP Advisory as joint administrator.
Tensions between the two firms have emerged since then. In November, Duff & Phelps’ request to increase its fee for handling the BHS administration from £3.5m to £4m was rejected by the Pension Protection Fund.
As a result, Duff & Phelps managing director Philip Duffy wrote a letter to MP Frank Field in January stating that the joint administration was “akin to having one builder start building a house and another finish it”.
Field was less than impressed and said in a response: “Duff & Phelps, who were appointed by Sir Philip, have left with half a million more than they expected for doing substantially less of the administration than they expected.”
Advisers to the ill-fated BHS sale
Former Goldman Sachs vice-chairman Michael Sherwood – one of the City’s most influential bankers – is believed to have had conversations with Green in an unofficial capacity prior to the sale of BHS to Retail Acquisitions.
The MPs investigating the retailer’s collapse observed: “Goldman Sachs should have been either in or out of the deal, and demonstrably so. As it was, they had authority without accountability.”
“Soon after being grilled by MPs during the parliamentary inquiry into the collapse of BHS, Sherwood quit his role at the Wall Street bank, where he had worked for 30 years”
Soon after being grilled by MPs during the parliamentary inquiry into the collapse of BHS, Sherwood quit his role at the Wall Street bank, where he had worked for 30 years.
The banker, nick-named Woody, denied any connection between his sudden departure and the BHS saga.
Owen Clay from ‘magic circle’ law firm Linklaters, advisor to Arcadia, also came under fire in the parliamentary inquiry, along with Olswang’s David Roberts, adviser to Retail Acquisitions.
They were accused of failing to carry out proper due diligence.
Linklaters argued it was not its responsibility to investigate Retail Acquisitions because it was not its client, and said the claims were “completely unjustified”.
Both Clay and Roberts remain at their respective firms.
Darren Topp and Michael Hitchcock
While so many of the key players in the collapse of BHS had their reputations tarnished, the retailer’s former chief executive Darren Topp and financial consultant Michael Hitchcock have emerged from the scandal like phoenixes from the ashes.
The two former BHS executives were damning in their evidence against former owner Chappell. Topp claimed that Chappell had had his hands in the till, while Hitchcock dismissed him as “incompetent”.
The pair are now running upmarket fashion retailer LK Bennett, which snapped up both Topp and Hitchcock as chief executive and chief financial officer respectively last September.
Sutton was a bit-player in the BHS affair.
“Sutton claimed in the subsequent parliamentary inquiry that he ‘could have easily saved BHS’, and has not been heard from since”
He was once in the frame to snap up the struggling department store retailer.
However, a dossier revealing that Sutton had a former fraud conviction was delivered to Green, who went on to sell the business to Chappell’s Retail Acquisitions instead.
Sutton claimed in the subsequent parliamentary inquiry that he “could have easily saved BHS”, and has not been heard from since.
BHS lighting team
The team in charge of BHS’s lighting range – a category in which the defunct retailer was highly regarded – was hired en masse by rival department store Debenhams’ new chief executive, ex-Amazon European boss Sergio Bucher.
As part of Debenhams’ mission to diversify the business and offset a decline in clothing sales, the specialist team were tasked with launching lighting at 30 of its stores.
Debenhams plans to introduce the new offer into more stores this year as it strives to attract former BHS custom.
David Anderson and the BHS.com team
Former BHS international director David Anderson was instrumental in getting BHS.com – under the new ownership of the Al Mana group – up and running.
Determined to revive the brand, he managed a team of 84 people, the vast majority of whom worked previously for BHS, and oversaw the website’s initial launch in September 2016.
Less than a month later, Al Mana said it was in the final stages of talks with three new franchise partners in Africa, Europe and the Middle East.
Now managing director of BHS’s international division, Anderson said the retailer had confirmed agreements with several new partners in new countries to expand BHS’s overseas bricks-and-mortar estate.
Green’s stepson and property magnate, Brett Palos, became tangled in the BHS web when it emerged that a business he runs – Thackeray Estate – bought a BHS store in Ealing a few days before the chain was sold to Retail Acquisitions.
“Palos acquired the shop for £6.9m, but sold it for a £3m profit just three months later”
Palos acquired the shop for £6.9m, but sold it for a £3m profit just three months later.
He denied claims of a conflict of interest in the deal when he appeared before MPs.
He remains a director of Arcadia and there has even been speculation that he is in the running for the newly available top job at Topshop.