This month’s book review is the really good story of the rise and fall of Philip Green and if even half the story is to be believed, then whilst he and his wife may have seen lots of the rises, everyone around them experienced many many falls!! 

The book charts his life from the very early days of family and making his way in business, all the way through to the infamous sale of British Home Stores for £1 to Dominic Chappell, a ‘charlatan who siphoned off BHS’s remaining millions before filing for administration’ 

I cannot believe that someone with some many business failures and leaving behind so many business owners, customers, suppliers and professionals with so many losses, could have been seen as some sort of business success, and then be knighted. 

He was once hailed as one of Britain’s best businessmen. He was chairman of Arcadia Group, home to brands such as Topshop, Dorothy Perkins and Miss Selfridge. He had prime ministers and some journalists wrapped around his little finger. 

It was only when Shah, a Sunday Times journalist, who had followed Green for years, began to uncover his methods of doing business, that it started to unravel, leading ultimately to the doomed final deal of the sale of BHS. 

Reading the book you very quickly get the impression that there was a pattern to his apparent success, which was to buy a business in distress, usually with someone else’s money and very rarely his own, and then asset strip it and either keep what was left or sell the remains too. Then he would move on to the next one, and usually the business left then went under and left lots of creditors unpaid. The deals got bigger and bigger, but the model was the same. The only people who usually made money from the deals was Green and his family, and it all went offshore. Green was careful to put ownership in his wife’s name. In 2005, Green’s wife, Tina, who is often credited as being the brains behind some of the schemes, received a £1.2bn dividend from Arcadia, and as she was a resident in Monaco, no income tax was paid on this. 

Green was also a bully. The book outlines many times where he threatened many of his competitors, the journalists, including Shah, and anyone that got in his way, and clearly ruled with fear. 

Unfortunately, he was doing deals at a time when the big banks and legal and accounting firms were falling over themselves to fund his deals and be part of the growth and they gave him millions to undertake these deals, and they made a lot of money on the way too. 

This is a very detailed book and goes back through all his business dealings from his first to arguably his last. Shah has access to many of the people involved in all the deals and provides a thorough analysis of all his businesses dealings and the people involved. 

Whilst I was naturally aware of the BHS issues and scandal, I did not know about many of the earlier businesses, schemes and failures, and indeed some of the finer detail about the time leading up to the sale of BHS and its later demise. There is considerable detail covering the whole BHS scandal and all the principal people, which makes great reading. When BHS went under in April 2016, it had debts of £1.3bn, including a pension deficit of £571m. 11,000 people lost their jobs. 

A parliamentary committee investigated the scandal, and I will leave you with a quote from one of the committee members at the end of the enquiry about Philip Green, ‘He took the rings from BHS’s fingers. He beat it black and blue. He starved it of food and water and put it on life support. And then he wanted credit for keeping it alive’