Billionaire Topshop owner Sir Philip Green has called for a truce with Frank Field, the MP who has doggedly pursued him over the collapse of BHS.
In a letter sent to Mr Field, released over the weekend, Sir Philip asks if the two can “avoid another spat” as “everyone is bored of this story”.
But barbed comments in the letter about Mr Field’s “manners” and media profile mean he is in no mood for compromise.
Mr Field told the BBC: “He doesn’t know how to behave like an adult.”
The MP, chairman of the Commons Work and Pensions Committee, has been investigating the collapse of the BHS department store chain and the black hole in its pension fund.
BHS was sold by Sir Philip’s Arcadia Group – which includes Miss Selfridge and Dorothy Perkins – for a nominal £1 in 2015 to Retail Acquisitions, run by former bankrupt Dominic Chappell.
The warring duo have clashed several times – in a committee hearing, via public and private letters, and through the media.
The most recent round of hostilities was sparked by reports – strongly denied – in the the Sunday Times that Sir Philip was trying to sell his retail empire to China’s Shandong Ruyi.
Mr Field’s committee has launched an investigation into the impact of any sale on the Arcadia pension schemes.
Now, Sir Philip has released a private letter sent to the MP on 27 February – which is a response to a letter Mr Field sent the businessman on 19 February.
Some main points are:
- “I think it is now perfectly clear there is no truth whatsoever that the business is being sold to Shandong Ruyi, whom I had never heard of before the [Sunday Times] article
- “Let’s try to avoid another public spat, that you so enjoy. All the board are aware, if the company is sold, there are pension obligations and there is a process
- “I think in future it would be good manners if, when you send a letter, you would give time to respond without giving it to the press 15 minutes later
- “I am aware, as everyone else is, how you love your press profile on the back of me. I do think however the time has come for this to stop
- “Mr Field, why don’t we call a truce. You say it is not personal, it could not be more personal. Go and tackle Carillion or someone else. I think 18 months later everyone is bored with this story.”
Mr Field told the BBC on Sunday that there were no plans to issue a formal response to the release of the letter.
But he said: “Philip Green never ceases to amaze. We are carrying out a Parliamentary inquiry into the possible sale of Arcadia.
“I am waiting for responses from The Pensions Regulator. We want the Pensions Regulator to get off their backside and supervise it [a possible sale].”