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New evidence raises more questions about BHS sale

BHS Image copyright Getty Images

MPs investigating the collapse of BHS have published new evidence that they say raises a host of new questions around the controversial sale for £1.

The Work and Pensions and the Business select committees released a log provided by a Goldman Sachs banker who informally advised Sir Philip Green.

Anthony Gutman has already given evidence to MPs.

He told them he had initially warned Arcadia that BHS buyer Dominic Chappell had been declared bankrupt.

Mr Gutman also told Sir Philip's company in December 2014 - three months before the sale - that Mr Chappell had little retail experience.

The log reveals that after Arcadia was made aware of Mr Chappell's bankruptcy, the company said it had "no interest in proceeding with the sale".

However, the bidders continued to "pursue their proposal hard".

Sir Philip told Arcadia finance director, Paul Budge, that he would only consider the deal if Swiss Rock, which later became Retail Acquisitions, was "putting in cash/equity themselves and had a prominent retailer".

In an email exchange on 15 January, Mr Budge told Mr Gutman that Sir Philip was not prepared to do a deal on the amounts put forward - and the retail frontperson "was not credible".

Nevertheless Mr Chappell remained serious about his proposal.

The following month, Mr Gutman told Arcadia that although the proposed financial lender to Mr Chappell's company appeared credible, it had not conducted due diligence and there was risk attaching to the Swiss Rock proposal.

The Goldman Sachs banker also said that it was not clear that the lender, a hedge fund called Farallon, understood the existence of a pension fund deficit.

Within a month of that email, the sale was done.

'New lines of inquiry'

Frank Field, chair of the Work and Pensions committee, said: "The full depth of the extraordinary circumstances of the sale of BHS to Retail Acquisitions are now beginning to come to light, especially with this remarkable record of the toings and froings of the deal to sell BHS to Dominic Chappell provided by the unpaid advisers at Goldman Sachs.

"An emerging theme of this inquiry is witnesses seeking to correct and clarify evidence they have given. What we are learning now throws some of the accounts we have heard so far further into question, and opens a series of new lines of inquiry that we are pursuing in advance of testimony from the lead actors in this affair over the next two weeks."

Image copyright Getty Images

Mr Chappell is due to give evidence before another joint hearing of the two select committees next Wednesday.

The MPs have also invited Robin Saunders, the Texan banker and close confidante of Sir Philip, to appear within the next two weeks.

She helped him raise the money to buy BHS in 2000 and sat on its board, sharing in huge dividend payouts.

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