Off the rails: Philip Green in a Topshop store in London in 2012

Green has been singled out as a poisonous force in the City of London. Yet the tendency to isolate the individual should be resisted.

In July 2015, at a party to mark the tenth anniversary of London’s Fashion Retail Academy, Tony Blair lauded Philip Green, the college’s sponsor, as “the person who thought up the dream and dreamt the dream into reality”. Less than a year after this saccharine tribute, Green became a pariah. On 25 April 2016, British Home Stores, the dowdy retailer he sold to serial fantasist Dominic Chappell for £1, entered administration. It did so with debts of £1bn and a pension deficit of £571m – the numbers that motivated Green’s fire sale.

Oliver Shah, the 34-year-old business editor of the Sunday Times who exposed Green’s misdemeanours, recounts how the billionaire made a reputation and lost it. In the months following BHS’s collapse, Green was typically described as “the unacceptable face of capitalism” (an epithet first applied by Ted Heath to Tiny Rowland in 1973). Yet the tendency to isolate the individual should be resisted. It is comfortable – and convenient – to attribute corporate failures to overweening ogres (Robert Maxwell, Dick Fuld, Fred Goodwin). Sharks, however, need water in which to swim.

Damaged Goods is not merely an indictment of Green but of his enablers. Shah does not spare his own trade – or his own paper. Confronted by journalists, Green would deploy “the carrot of leaks about other people’s deals and the stick of his ferocious temper”. So important was the relationship with the Sunday Times business team that Green titled his unpublished autobiography Lucky 5766 (the extension number of the paper’s business editor).

With the media’s connivance, Green cast himself as a rags-to-riches upstart disturbing the patrician City of London. But the supposed proletarian grew up …read more

Source:: New Statesman

      

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