Arcadia boss Sir Philip Green is trying to find a deal for the BHS pension scheme to prevent a bailout by the Pension Protection Fund, according to reports.
However, the last-ditch attempts have been met with scepticism from both the PPF and the pensions watchdog, sources told The Sunday Times. The newspaper said the regulator is refusing to speak to Green as it is investigating his role over the pension scheme and its £571m deficit.
A spokesman for The Pensions Regulator has since said: “Anyone who feels they may be a target of our anti-avoidance investigation is welcome to approach us at any time and we will engage in discussions. Our door is open.
“It is not accurate to say we are refusing to engage with Sir Philip Green regarding the BHS Pension Scheme. We have not had any contact from Sir Philip Green in relation to a current attempt to restructure the scheme.
“We recognise that this is a particularly difficult time for BHS employees. Our anti-avoidance investigation continues and our chief executive has given a clear commitment that we will have made significant progress by the end of 2016. It’s important that we do not prejudice this complex case and are able to progress it quickly. We are therefore not making any further comment at this time.”
A spokesman for Sir Philip Green said: “We are pleased that they remain open to a dialogue.”
BHS is being wound down as administrators failed to find a buyer for the chain, placing 11,000 jobs at risk at 163 stores. The 20,000 members of its pension fund are set to be transferred to the PPF and around 13,000 expect cuts of at least 10%.
The newspaper also revealed fresh embarrassment for Goldman Sachs, whose co-head investment banking, Anthony Gutman, told MPs he warned Green’s finance director of Retail Acquisitions’ Dominic Chappell’s history of bankruptcy as part of the select committee hearings. Is there a word missing in this sentence? ‘warned of’?
It has now emerged he sent an email to Chappell on March 25 last year, which said: “Congratulations on getting the deal done; you deserve it — you were consistent throughout and stuck to your word.”