The BHS blame-game is an ugly business

EDITOR'S BLOG: You might not like Philip Green's taste but a healthy economy needs his like.

by Matthew Gwyther
Last Updated: 08 Jun 2016

A bit of a downer of a week. One that has brought the worst out in us. When it comes to bitter recrimination, the blame game and vengeful behaviour nobody, besides the Sicilian Mafia does it better than the Brits. 

Philip Green was never everyone’s cup of tea but now the nation appears to want to put a horse’s head in his and Lady Tina’s Monaco bed. The latest attack comes this morning from Marina Hyde in The Guardian - which has loathed Green ever since he gave them a spicy mouthful down the phone years ago - where she likens him to Gatsby. Or Twatsby as she puts it.

I haven’t been through the BHS/Arcadia accounts for the last 15 years with a fine tooth comb so I’m not sure that stripping him of his Knighthood and conducting a ritual de-bagging/humiliation is justified on the evidence that any of his enemies have put forward so far. But it all looks very rum as things always do when large organisations fail. We all know/knew better.

But Philip has been reputationally gravely damaged. This happened before during the Amber Day years and he really didn’t like it. Like many swashbuckling entrepreneurs he has a very thin skin.

There is a side of the pillorying that is very unattractive. The snobbery. Phil is not there to teach us good taste or refinement. That’s not the point of him. What he is is an animal spirit writ large. So what if his son’s bar mitzvah cost £5 million and the guests included Jeremy Beadle and a Page 3 girl? So what if he tools around the shallow waters of the Med in leopard skin speedboats?

The point about Philip Green is that a healthy economy needs people like him. Few FTSE 100 CEOs have his drive, determination, or will to succeed. In hanging his likes out to dry you need to be careful what you wish for.

You could fairly criticise him for neither investing properly in BHS nor selling it off years ago when the brand still had a chance of recovery. Because for anyone who has ventured into a BHS store in recent times, the writing was clearly on the wall.

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