Dominic Chappell, the owner of Retail Acquisitions, tried to buy flights for his family to the Bahamas using the BHS company travel budget but was stopped by BHS chief executive Darren Topp, it has emerged.
The incident happened in December last year, according to new evidence submitted to the work and pensions committee and the business, innovation and skills committee, both of which are investigating the retail chain’s collapse.
Topp said Chappell saw “no distinction between the company’s money and his own personal money” in the letter.
After Topp stopped him using the company money, Chappell sought to take his December 2015 salary early ahead of a family holiday to the Bahamas, despite Retail Acquisitions having taken out “millions of pounds since the acquisition”, the letter said. The human resources team allowed the payment on the basis of “hardship”, like they would with any other employee.
However Chappell said the incident was “purely an issue of logistics”.
“There was no intent whatsoever to have the company pay for my private travel,” he said, explaining that he had no access to his own credit cards or bank details so requested it be put on the company account, which he would then reimburse.
“I presumed that this had been done but subsequently found out that Darren Topp had declined my request,” he said. “When I was finally able to make the payment personally a few days, the tickets cost significantly more than the originally price quoted.”
Topp also said Chappell had a “home team” of friends and family that he brought into BHS during Retail Acquisition’s 12 months of ownership and there was a “distinct ‘us’ and ‘them’ culture” during the RAL ownership which Chappell encouraged.
Chappell denied this and said: ”All those friends/acquaintances that were brought onto the BHS management board were done so because of their considerable experience in their fields and relevance to the expertise needed within BHS management.”
The select committees have requested further evidence from Chappell about the funds he took out of BHS under his ownership.
Frank Field, chair of the work and pensions committee, 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 RAL, and the exact circumstances of that sale, the directors of RAL – 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 RAL’s stewardship: they should also account fully and properly for their decisions and actions, some of which appear quite extraordinary.”
The full letter from Topp is attached.