BHS buyer Dominic Chappell was 'down on his uppers'

Paul Sutton
Image caption Paul Sutton said he lost £160,000 in a failed property project backed by Mr Chappell

A businessmen who introduced Dominic Chappell to Sir Philip Green said he "never thought in a million years" that he would end up running BHS.

Paul Sutton said that Mr Chappell, who bought BHS from Sir Philip's retail empire, had initially been his driver.

Mr Sutton had been interested in buying BHS, but abandoned the plan after a dossier was passed to Sir Philip.

Mr Sutton told MPs investigating the BHS collapse the material was part of an alleged attempt to blackmail him.

He said a campaign was being waged against him, and agreed to stand down from the BHS deal.

Mr Chappell then emerged as a potential buyer, and bought BHS last year for £1. The business collapsed this year with the loss of up to 11,000 jobs and a big hole the pension fund.

Mr Sutton said he did not know who had recommended to Sir Philip that Mr Chappell take the purchase forward.

"It certainly wasn't me", Mr Sutton said. "It baffles me... I just don't know."

Mr Sutton claimed that Mr Chappell had owed him £160,000 from a failed property development on the Isle of Wight.

'Get my money back'

As to why he got involved with Mr Chappell some years later, Mr Sutton said he had received a call from Mr Chappell who appeared to be "down on his uppers" and he decided to give him some work, initially as a driver and paid on an ad hoc basis.

"Involving him was the only way I could get my money back," Mr Sutton told MPs.

Image caption Dominic Chappell led Retail Acquisitions, which bought BHS last year

He said he was completely unaware of what Mr Chappell was doing behind the scenes, as he had hired his own team of advisers to complete the deal.

The BHS pension scheme, and who would take on the liabilities, is a big part of the MPs' investigation.

Mr Sutton said that Sir Philip told him that he would take care of the pension and that there had never been any plan to offload it as part of the sale.

MPs asked if Mr Sutton would have bought BHS without the pension deficit? "Yes", he replied.

He never had a chance to discuss things with the BHS Pension Trustees and the Pensions Regulator as his attempt to buy the business didn't get that far down the road, he said.

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