Home » Pandora Papers: How Sir Philip Green (and Lady Green) went on a property spree as BHS faltered

Pandora Papers: How Sir Philip Green (and Lady Green) went on a property spree as BHS faltered

by Lester Blair
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The secretive spending of Sir Philip Green and his spouse on luxury property came as the chain of shops they were heading for collapse. Leaked documents revealed that.

After selling BHS, the couple spent many millions. It was bankrupt and left a large hole in its pension funds.

Part of the Pandora Papers leaked files also shows that Greens gifted superyachts to close friends.

According to The Greens, these are private issues and they declined to make any comment.

The entire chain fell apart in just 12 months. This led to 11,000 job losses and empty sites within the towns. The downfall also led to an outcry when it emerged the business had left a black hole of up to £571m in its pension fund.

During the 15 years they had owned the company, Sir Philip and Lady Green, and other shareholders, made at least £580m from BHS, According to the Guardian analysis

The leak of the Pandora Papers documents reveals that the Greens went on an extensive property-buying spree following the unloading of BHS, which was on the verge to collapse.

BHS, one of the most famous brands on the British High Street, was struggling under the weight of its debts in March 2015, when the Greens sold it for a token sum of £1. Dominic Chappell was the buyer. He is a former racing driver and bankrupt businessman who has no experience in retail.

The files show that in June 2015, the Greens anonymously bought a Mayfair flat for £4.95m using an offshore firm.

Amberley Limited, an American company, was established in British Virgin Islands. It used the money to purchase a house in Balfour Place in Mayfair. Just a stones throw away from Park Lane is the Dorchester Hotel. According to the files, Lady Tina Green is Amberley’s beneficial owner.

On 30 March 2016, less than a month before BHS went bust, the Pandora Papers show another company owned by Lady Green, BVI-based Hulverstone Investments Ltd, paid £15m for a luxury apartment a short walk away, taking up three floors of a house in Hill Street, Mayfair.

The Greens also paid £10.6m in January 2016 for a new home for their 25-year-old daughter Chloe Green in Belgravia, near Buckingham Palace, the documents show. It was purchased anonymously by Mottistone Holdings offshore, which Lady Green owns.

The four-storey townhouse was just around the corner from a £7m flat on Eaton Place, also, the files show, owned anonymously by her mother through a BVI company called Bestfalls Limited.

The transactions came after Arcadia, a retail group controlled by the Greens, had paid £53m to buy an offshore company from Lady Green, Wilton Equity Limited. Wilton owned the BHS headquarters at Marylebone House, 129-137 Marylebone Road which it had purchased in 2013 for £31m.

BHS crashed less than one month after Belgravia’s townhouse had been purchased. After a public outcry and months of angry criticism from MPs, Sir Philip later agreed to put £363m into the company’s pension scheme to help address the deficit.

Arcadia, the company that owned Topshop Miss Selfridge, Dorothy Perkins and Miss Selfridge, also ran into difficulties around this time. In 2017, sales began to decline and profit margins fell. Arcadia eventually had to go bankrupt, which put 13,000 employees at risk.

Commentators criticised the Greens, who had previously extracted £1.2bn from the company, for failing to invest in its stores and online offering to revive its fortunes.

According to the files, Lady Green gifted a custom-built 64-metre yacht, Silver Angel, to Richard Caring in November 2017. Richard Caring was a close friend of Lady Green’s and a business associate. He also received ownership rights to Westhurst Partners, a BVI-registered company.

It was quite unusual that the gift came from Mr Caring, who had been pretending as if the yacht was his own since 2009. The Evening Standard: Telling the StoryHe had recently purchased a motor cruiser called Silver Angel. This boat was used to cruise the Mediterranean. Only now have the records revealed that Lady Green was the owner of the yacht.

Documents in the files show the yacht being acquired in 2009 for €46m and that it was worth approximately €30m (£25m at today’s exchange rates) in 2017.

A previous leak of documents may provide clues as to why this gift was given. They show that in 2005, bankers noted Mr Caring, a wealthy restaurateur who owns The Ivy restaurant chain, would shortly receive £22.5m in dividends from shares that Lady Green held in trust for him. Talk also arose about the possibility of receiving additional dividends and that he would need to seek UK tax advice regarding the best way to receive these funds.

The same year, his bankers talked to him about Mr Caring buying a new yacht and the best way to acquire it. They also suggested a possible loan agreement.

Although there’s no evidence to link the two, BBC asked Lady Green if Richard Caring had the yacht on trust until he was given it. This would have been a tax-efficient way for Mr Caring to receive his dividends.

Lady Green and Sir Philip declined to answer specific questions regarding the yacht through their legal counsel, implying that they were discussing private issues. Richard Caring declined the same.

Sir Philip answered questions from the PA news agency regarding the claims and said that “I don’t own any offshore real property”

Nearly 12,000,000 documents and files were leaked in the Pandora Papers leak, which exposes secret riches and deals of politicians, world leaders and billionaires. International Consortium of Investigative journalists in Washington DC obtained the data and launched one of the most extensive global investigations ever. Over 600 journalists representing 117 different countries investigated the secret fortunes of some the world’s most influential people. In the UK, the BBC Panorama and Guardian led the investigation.

Pandora Papers coverageFollow the reaction to this tweet using #PandoraPapers in the BBC News App or Panorama is available on BBC iPlayerOnly for UK viewers

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