Sir Philip Green, who has been on the periphery of the Everton board for years, finds himself back in the spotlight again this week with the release of a damning report alleging “systematic plunder” of Green and his cronies over the years leading to the collapse of department store chain British Home Stores (BHS).
The chain closed its doors last month after they failed to find another buyer for it, but Green has been implicated in the report, which states that the “tragedy” at BHS was a result of the “unacceptable face of capitalism”. Questions have been raised about Green’s complex tax avoidance schemes which could change how private companies are governed and their pension funds regulated.
Green sold BHS for £1 in March 2015 to a consortium led by Dominic Chappell, a businessman who has declared bankruptcy three times. BHS then went into administration in April with a £571m pension deficit.
The MPs’ report tears Green’s business reputation to shreds, who went on to state that there is “little to support the reputation for retail business acumen for which he received his knighthood”, and the magnate finds himself in a situation where he will have to compensate the pension shortfall from his own coffers or find himself stripped of the knighthood.
The relationship Green has with Everton Football Club is even murkier than his decision to register his shell companies in offshore locations like the Jersey and British Virgin Islands for their “strong regulatory regimes.”
Green is an old friend and ‘advisor’ of club chairman Bill Kenwright, even though he is a Tottenham Hotspur supporter. He arranged for another business associate Robert Earl (who owns the Planet Hollywood chain) to purchase 24% stake in the club from former director Paul Gregg during a struggle for control of Everton in 2004. Gregg had reportedly stated that the payment for the shares had come from Green, not Earl.
Earl’s shares were held by a British Virgin Islands registered company (BCR Sports), the formation of which was based on the same complex financial structures that Green used to con the British Exchequer of hundreds of millions of pounds through shady tax avoidance schemes. That same 24% stake was part of the deal that brought new majority owner Farhad Moshiri to Everton, and he now controls 49.9% of the club.
In 2008, the Everton chief executive at the time Keith Wyness resigned, supposedly over the Kirkby Project affair and the huge influence that Sir Philip Green exerted over the club. The BBC reported -
"Although Green, one of the richest men in the country, is not formally connected to Everton, he has been involved in much of the Toffees' recent activity."
"It is our understanding the manager David Moyes has had to go to Green on his plans to buy and sell players, and also finalise his contract."
In a telephone interview with the BBC, Green attempted to clarify his involvement -
"Everybody knows I'm a friend of Bill Kenwright, and I helped him get Everton.
"It is his club and his ball. He asked me for advice - If people ring me up and on a confidential basis ask me to help, what is wrong with that?”
With the latest troubles set to befall the Green empire, it will once again cast unfortunate light upon his involvement in Everton’s dealings over the years, especially with the “lines of credit” he has been known to offer the Toffees to secure signings and even proposed takeover attempts, as was the case by the Fortress Sports Fund (FSF), a Brunei based investment fund fronted by Christopher Samuelson, who was later involved in the demise of Reading Football Club.
Since Moshiri’s takeover of the club, there has been an attempt to clean out some of the skeletons in the Blues’ closet, with the Iranian billionaire appointing his ‘money guy’ Sasha Ryazantsev to the Board. As fans we can only hope that our dealings going forward will be above board (pun unintended) and not fraught with the sinister dealings the past two decades have seen.