Just weeks ago, Oliver Shah’s Damaged Goods: the Inside Story of Sir Philip Green, the Collapse of BHS and the Death of the High Street hit shelves. Within the book’s pages, the Sunday Times journalist charts Green’s decline from retail magnate and arguably one of Britain’s best businessmen to a fallen tycoon, responsible for the demise of BHS.
Gentleman’s Journal recently spoke to Shah about the revelations he presents in Damaged Goods.
“He was ringing me as I was writing the book,” the journalist reveals, “but I’ve had no legal letters since. I think he’s probably been told to keep his head down and, for once, he seems to be listening to his advisers. I think he knows that making a fuss would just lead to more problems.”
The problems, indeed, are numerous. According to Shah’s book, by the time it went under in April 2016, BHS had debts of £1.3bn, including a pension deficit of £571m. Its collapse left 11,000 employees without jobs and 20,000 pension fund members facing the loss of their benefits, prompting the government to launch an inquiry into Green’s sale of the company.
But what led to this furore? We asked Shah to identify the character flaws that led to Green’s downfall — and some may shock you…
He had huge insecurities when it came to money, says Shah
“During his early years, his family drilled into him the importance of making money,” says Shah, “and this caused a lot of insecurity for Green if he couldn’t support his family. His whole upbringing was focused around money.”
Shah's book reveals he was an incredibly greedy man
“The next contributing factor to Green’s downfall was simply his greed,” offers the journalist. “He was consumed by wealth and a love of celebrity and yachts and a certain type of life. This greed accelerated his downfall, without a doubt.”
He surrounded himself with too many ‘yes men’, according to the journalist
“As he became more powerful and wealthy, Green started to surround himself with people who would make him feel powerful and wealthy,” says Shah.
“And it was these hangers-on — I think you could even call them parasites — that led to the BHS sale. They didn’t actually care, they just wanted to feed off Green’s wealth, and were there to assure him he was making the right deals, and that all of his ideas were great.”
Shah believes he had an unhealthy obsession with the media
“Green is, and always was, an avid player of the press,” Shah reveals. “It really is an unhealthy obsession with how he is written about and generally portrayed in the media. He’s the source of many of those stories too. And that’s the real problem; he loves the media, but he started to believe that he could control the press.”
He has a terrible temper, as Shah knows
“Green has always struggled to control his temper,” says the journalist. “But, over the years, this anger has got worse. Without a doubt. His temper has got worse. The BHS issues definitely contributed to that — he got progressively more likely to rant and swear.”
Shah documents how he was fixated on becoming a celebrity
“This, like Green’s obsession with the media, was just another example on him focusing on something other than business,” says Shah. “In the days following his Arcadia and Topshop purchase, he started hanging out with Kate Moss and Alexandra Shulman. He completely lost touch with domestic Britain.”
He was arrogant to a fault, says Shah
“It links into his other flaws, but one of Green’s major faults was that he believed he could get away with anything,” concludes Shah. “He’d manipulate bankers and his advisers — even when they just wanted the best for him. Ironically, it was this outlook that really helped Green in his first years of business — the same arrogant attitude that led to his downfall.”
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