Former MP Sir Frank Field, who led the BHS pensioners’ campaign for justice, warned that the tycoon must not be allowed to shortchange the 13,000 company workers whose jobs are under threat. He said of Green: “His golden touch has turned to ashes for workers and pensioners.” Lord Field – now a Baron after being elevated to the Lords last month – spoke after it emerged that Green’s 550-store operation needs £30million to survive Christmas. Green, 68, has a personal fortune of £950million, including a £100m superyacht.
Last night, as Arcadia workers feared for their future, he was reported to be planning on spending Christmas at a luxury hotel in the Maldives, frequented by David Beckham, Tom Cruise and other A-list stars.
A beach-side villa for two costs almost £50,000 a week at the paradise destination of One & Only Reethi Rah.
Meanwhile Arcadia – which includes Topshop, Burton and Dorothy Perkins – said it had become the latest victim of the slump spurred by the pandemic.
Its statement added: “As a result, the Arcadia boards have been working on a number of contingency options to secure the future of the group’s brands.”
City analysts said the crisis could lead to the group being broken up.
Sports Direct chief Mike Ashley is said to be interested in taking over parts of it.
Lord Field said he would be working in the Lords to ensure Arcadia workers didn’t have to go through a similar ordeal to the 11,000 BHS workers. In 2015 Green sold the retailer for £1 to Dominic Chappell in an apparent bid to avoid responsibility for its insolvent pension schemes.
The company went bust a year later with the loss of 11,000 jobs.
MPs forced Green to part with some of his money to plug the £571million pensions black hole. It led to him being dubbed the “unacceptable face of capitalism”. Meanwhile, Chappell was jailed for six years earlier this month after being found guilty of failing to pay tax of £584,000.
Last night Lord Field called Green “a flash boy who didn’t do good” and pointed out that Lady Green, 70 – Arcadia’s registered owner – was once paid a record dividend of £1.2billion by the firm.
Lord Field said: “When he was before the House of Commons, Sir Philip Green said he regarded his workers as part of his family. Clearly now the family, ie, the workers, would like some of that money back to ensure they get full pensions.
“I will now from the Lords try to do what I can to ease the wheels.
“None of the workers think they should have a standard of living of extreme luxury like the Green family.
“But they would be grateful for what they have earned – which is their pensions.”
Dave Gill, national officer of shopworkers’ union Usdaw, said: “This is a devastating blow for workers at Arcadia and could not have come at a worse time, just before Christmas.
“We are seeking urgent meetings with management and we urge them to end their anti-union stance and engage with us.”
Susannah Streeter, senior analyst at Hargreaves Landsdown, said: “Arcadia would be the biggest British corporate collapse of the pandemic if it does enter voluntary liquidation.
“It would hollow out huge swathes of the high street if its huge footprint of stores were forced to close.”