Billionaire Retailer Philip Green Named in #MeToo Scandal
(Bloomberg) -- Philip Green, the billionaire owner of the Topshop clothing chain, was named in Parliament as the British businessman alleged to have used legal agreements and payments to hide accusations of sexual harassment, racist abuse and bullying -- an allegation he denies.
Peter Hain told the House of Lords on Thursday that he felt it was his “duty” to reveal the name under parliamentary privilege after being contacted by someone involved in the case. The accusations are the latest in the #MeToo movement that has implicated high-ranking officials and businessmen for allegedly harassing and abusing women.
Hain’s statement named Green as the subject of an article in the Telegraph newspaper on Wednesday about a leading British businessman accused of sexually harassing and racially abusing his staff.
"I feel it is my duty under parliamentary privilege to name Philip Green as the individual in question, given that the media have been subject to an injunction preventing publication of the full details of the story, which is clearly in the public interest,” Hain said.
Green, of fashion empire Arcadia Group Ltd., denied the allegations in an emailed statement sent from a spokesman.
“I am not commenting on anything that has happened in court or was said in Parliament today. To the extent that it is suggested that I have been guilty of unlawful sexual or racist behavior, I categorically and wholly deny these allegations,” according to the statement. “Arcadia and I take accusations and grievances from employees very seriously and in the event that one is raised, it is thoroughly investigated.”
“Arcadia employs more than 20,000 people and in common with many large businesses sometimes receives formal complaints from employees. In some cases these are settled with the agreement of all parties and their legal advisers. These settlements are confidential so I cannot comment further on them,” the statement added.
A U.K. court prevented the newspaper from publishing details of the account, including the man’s name, the companies, the specific allegations against him or how much he paid in settlements. The businessman had nondisclosure agreements, which the court said justified an injunction.
Earlier this month, the Guardian newspaper reported that Green had been involved in a spat over a feminist pop-up shop at one of his Topshop stores. Penguin Books had collaborated on a display that featured a book of essays about feminism, and Green ordered the display taken down, the Guardian reported. Green later apologized for what he called a misunderstanding, according to British tabloid the Daily Mail.
Parliamentary privilege has been used to skirt court orders before. In 2011, lawmakers took to both branches of the Parliament to identify two men, including former Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc Chief Executive Officer Fred Goodwin, who had separately taken out so-called super injunctions to stop newspapers from publishing stories about extra-marital affairs.
The allegations come about a year after the New York Times reported on accounts of serial predation by Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. After the report, women came forward with a deluge of accusations against prominent men in entertainment, business and politics. What came to be known as the #MeToo movement tallied at least 429 people with publicly reported allegations of sex-related bad behavior in national, state and local media, trade publications and the public record since the Weinstein story was first published.
Worth about $2.7 billion according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, Green has also been embroiled in scandal for years over his management of the U.K. department-store chain BHS. He netted a fortune in dividends from the company while the employee pension fund was hundreds of millions of pounds in the red. In 2015, Green sold the troubled business for one pound to a former race-car driver with no previous retail experience. The company subsequently collapsed.
Lawmakers unsuccessfully demanded revocation of Green’s knighthood, calling him the “unacceptable face of capitalism.” In 2017, he agreed to pay as much as 363 million pounds ($465 million) to fund his former employees’ pensions.
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