Sir Philip Green, the Topshop owner, has written to the MP Frank Field calling for a “truce” in their long-running public spat over the collapse of the BHS retail chain.
Writing in a letter to the chair of the Commons work and pensions select committee at the end of last month, but now leaked to the Mail on Sunday, the retail tycoon told Field it was time to “avoid another public spat, that you so enjoy”.
“Why don’t we call a truce. You say it is not personal, it could not be more personal. Go and tackle Carillion or someone else. I think eighteen months later everyone is bored with this story,” he wrote.
Last month Field, the chair of the Commons work and pensions committee, said he thought Green had “got away with murder” over the failure of BHS with a £571m black hole in its pension scheme in April 2016. The comment was the latest in a long-running dispute between the two men.
Green, who sold the chain for £1 to serial bankrupt Dominic Chappell a year before the retailer shut down, agreed to pay £363m in cash to rescue the BHS pension scheme. He has threatened Field with legal action after the politician claimed to have seen leaked details of the official probe into the BHS crisis.
Field has also since pursued assurances from Green over the health of the pension scheme at his Arcadia Group, which includes fashion outlets Topshop and Miss Selfridge, and is also in deficit. Arcadia has highlighted plans agreed last year to double its pension contributions to £50m a year.
In his latest letter to Field, Green wrote that “if the Company is sold, there are pension obligations and there is a process that they will need to adhere to should that arise”. He also said the pensions regulator was satisfied that processes are in place to protect funds were Arcadia sold.
Green has been forced to deny Arcadia is up for sale in recent weeks, after leaks to the Sunday Times suggested he asked HSBC to help him find a buyer.
His spokesman said on Sunday that neither Green or his wife, who is the principal shareholder of the company, had ever “met formally with HSBC regarding disposal of Topshop, Topman, or any part of the Arcadia Group, nor have they ever instructed the bank to find a buyer for all or part of the business.”
Field said on Sunday, Green could “act above board” and pay an insurance company to take on the entire pension liabilities of Arcadia. “That would free him to get on with the sale which the Sunday Times reports, but on which he still seems to be in a state of denial,” he added.