Topshop's owner accused of sexual harassment, racist abuse

BRITISH TYCOON PHILIP GREEN.
BRITISH TYCOON PHILIP GREEN.

LONDON • Sir Philip Green, the billionaire owner of the Topshop clothing chain, has been 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.

Labour politician 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.

Mr Hain's statement named Sir Philip 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 has been subject to an injunction preventing publication of the full details of the story, which is clearly in the public interest," Mr Hain said.

Sir Philip, of fashion empire Arcadia Group, denied the allegations in an e-mail statement sent by 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 behaviour, I categorically and wholly deny these allegations," the statement said.

NOT TRUE

To the extent that it is suggested that I have been guilty of unlawful sexual or racist behaviour, I categorically and wholly deny these allegations.

BRITISH TYCOON PHILIP GREEN, in a statement.

"Arcadia and I take accusations and grievances from employees very seriously and, in the event that one is raised, it is thoroughly investigated."

The statement added: "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."

A United Kingdom 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 non-disclosure agreements, which the court said justified an injunction.

Earlier this month, the Guardian newspaper reported that Sir Philip 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 he ordered the display taken down, the Guardian reported.

Sir Philip later apologised for what he called a misunderstanding, according to British tabloid The Daily Mail.

Parliamentary privilege has been used to skirt court orders in the past.

 
 

In 2011, lawmakers took to both branches of the Parliament to identify two men, including former Royal Bank of Scotland Group chief executive officer Fred Goodwin, who had separately taken out so-called super injunctions to stop newspapers from publishing stories about extramarital 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 was published, 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 behaviour in national, state and local media, trade publications and the public record since the Weinstein story was first published.

Worth about US$2.7 billion (S$3.7 billion) according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, Sir Philip was once known as the "king of the high street" and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth.

But his reputation was damaged by the collapse of department store BHS after he sold the chain for £1 (S$1.80) in 2015 to a businessman who had formerly been declared bankrupt.

Lawmakers have unsuccessfully demanded revocation of Sir Philip's knighthood, calling him the "unacceptable face of capitalism".

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 27, 2018, with the headline 'Topshop's owner accused of sexual harassment, racist abuse'. Print Edition | Subscribe