Sir Philip Green last night broke his silence over the allegations of racism and sexual harassment against him – telling The Mail on Sunday he had suffered ‘the worst week of my life’.
TopShop boss Sir Philip, 66, was last week identified as the man who had taken out an injunction preventing publication of allegations about his harassment of staff, which he strenuously denies.
Speaking for the first time since the scandal erupted, the TopShop owner said that he had indulged in nothing more than ‘banter’ with his staff, claiming he had a good relationship with those who worked for him.
He added: ‘I’m very, very, very upset. I’m being used as target practice when there is zero [evidence] that anyone has turned up with. It’s injuring my business, all the people potentially working in the business, and it’s injuring me and my family.’
But his claims of being a victim – including complaints of being harassed himself – are likely to anger those who have accused him of bullying behaviour and sexual misconduct.
Breaking his silence: Sir Philip Green with his wife, Lady Tina. Speaking for the first time since the scandal erupted, the TopShop owner said that he had indulged in nothing more than ‘banter’ with his staff, claiming he had a good relationship with those who worked for him
Sir Philip said: ‘I’m very, very, very upset. I’m being used as target practice when there is zero [evidence] that anyone has turned up with. It’s injuring my business, all the people potentially working in the business, and it’s injuring me and my family.’ Above, in Arizona this week
The Mail on Sunday spoke to Sir Philip at a spa resort in Arizona, where he has been holed up since the accusations broke.
Asked what his wife, Tina, thought of the allegations, he said: ‘Tina is horrified, she’s appalled that people are treating us like this. We all feel the same. It’s a horror story. Somebody can say whatever they like and people just follow you around, chasing you and harassing you.
‘I’ve been in business for more than 40 years. There has obviously from time to time been some banter, but as far as I’m concerned that’s never been offensive.
‘I’ve got a good relationship with all my staff. In all that time, until the recent issues, I’ve not had one litigation or complaint.
‘If anything I’ve said has caused offence, I’m happy to apologise. Nothing I’ve said was ever meant to be offensive.
‘Many people have worked for the family for many years and I’ve never had any problems.’
Sir Philip’s Mail on Sunday interview came as:
- He faced damaging new claims that he racially abused Filipino crew on his £115 million superyacht, calling them ‘f*****g lazy Flippers’;
- New allegations of sexual harassment emerged from a string of former employees, including the claim he asked women in meetings if they ‘needed their bottoms slapped’ because they were ‘naughty girls’;
- Green hit out at Lord Hain – who had used parliamentary privilege to name him in the House of Lords last week – but the Labour peer said that he would ‘not be cowed’.
The storm engulfing the flamboyant, outspoken tycoon last night showed no sign of abating as he angrily clashed with TV reporters who tracked him down to his Arizona hideout.
Sir Philip said he was in New York when it became clear he was the businessman at the centre of the allegations that had been at the centre of the controversy, dubbed the British #MeToo – the movement to name and shame sex pests sparked by the downfall of Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.
The TopShop boss and former owner of BHS had initially prevented the Daily Telegraph from reporting the allegations against him by taking out an injunction.
Sir Philip with top models in 2014. There is no suggestion that anyone pictured is involved in any of the allegations against him
This was granted by the court on the basis that the employees who were making the allegations had signed so-called non-disclosure agreements, and the newspaper was also bound by these.
That led to a guessing game about the identity of the businessman at the centre of the allegations.
It only became public when former Northern Ireland secretary Peter Hain used parliamentary privilege, which protects him from being sued, to name Sir Philip.
The retail mogul said he knew the injunction had been granted ‘but had no idea that anything was going to happen after that.’
Green hit out at Lord Hain (above) – who had used parliamentary privilege to name him in the House of Lords last week – but the Labour peer said that he would ‘not be cowed’
Last night, Sir Philip said: ‘Peter Hain’s behaviour is just disgusting. People can take the law into their own hands? Decide they don’t agree with three senior judges? And just tip everybody’s lives upside-down?
‘From a personal point of view, everyone has been fabulously supportive. I’ve had many former employees and current ones messaging me and saying they are very upset about the allegations. People crying on the phone saying how can they help?’
‘The whole thing is disgusting, this has got nothing to do with any sexual misconduct. It’s nonsense.
‘This cannot be right: knocking on people’s doors, harassing people trying to make them say something that’s not true.’
Of the claims of racism aboard his Lionheart superyacht, he explained: ‘ My family’s longest-serving Filipino employee, who brings many others to work for us, has been with us 28 years.
‘The family still employs many Filipinos and anyone who is telling you there is any issue with Filipinos is just making trouble. I’ve never said such a thing, I’ve never even heard that word before.’
Sir Philip Green now faces claims he called Filipino crew on his £115million superyacht ‘lazy f****** Flippers’
By BARBARA JONES IN MONACO FOR THE MAIL ON SUNDAY
Sir Philip Green was last night facing damaging new claims he racially abused Filipino crew on his superyacht by calling them ‘f****** lazy Flippers’.
According to a source close to the tycoon’s staff in the tax haven of Monaco, when some of the employees complained that the term was racist, they were sacked and replaced.
Last night Sir Philip denied being racist and said he still employed Filipino staff.
The development comes after he was identified last week as the man behind an injunction preventing publication in the Telegraph of allegations about the sexual harassment of staff.
Sir Philip Green (above, in Tucson, Arizona this week) was last night facing damaging new claims he racially abused Filipino crew on his superyacht by calling them ‘f****** lazy Flippers’. According to a source close to the tycoon’s staff in the tax haven of Monaco, when some of the employees complained that the term was racist, they were sacked and replaced
Yesterday on the Cote d’Azur, a source close to the crew of Sir Philip’s £115 million Lionheart superyacht (file image) provided the MoS with a revealing insight into the ‘brutal’ working life for those aboard the 295ft boat or at his various properties in the area
The storm engulfing the billionaire last night showed no sign of abating as he clashed with media who tracked him down to a spa resort in Arizona.
Hours earlier, he had faced claims of sexual harassment and sleazy behaviour from a string of former employees. The Guardian reported allegations he had asked women in meetings if they ‘needed their bottoms slapped’ because they were ‘naughty girls’.
Sir Philip also hit out at Lord Hain – who named him in the House of Lords last week – saying he would report him to the authorities over a suggested conflict of interest because of his links to a firm of lawyers representing the Telegraph.
Yesterday on the Cote d’Azur, a source close to the crew of Sir Philip’s £115 million Lionheart superyacht provided the MoS with a revealing insight into the ‘brutal’ working life for those aboard the 295ft boat or at his various properties in the area.
According to the insider, Sir Philip allegedly lines up staff on the boat and shouts at them if anything isn’t the way he expects it.
The 30-strong crew, who wear cream uniforms, look after up to 12 guests in six ‘staterooms’ on the yacht, which is fitted in Italian marble and is four storeys high with its own helipad.
According to the insider, Sir Philip allegedly lines up staff on the boat and shouts at them if anything isn’t the way he expects it. The 30-strong crew, who wear cream uniforms, look after up to 12 guests in six ‘staterooms’ on the yacht, which is fitted in Italian marble and is four storeys high with its own helipad
The source claimed that until about five years ago, the Filipino members of the crew were regularly addressed by Sir Philip as ‘You f****** lazy Flippers’ – a term which some objected to as a racial slur.
According to online Urban Dictionary, the term was used as an insult by World War Two US servicemen and Flip stands for ‘F****** Little Island People’. Sir Philip’s response at the claim of racism was – it is alleged – to have them replaced.
For those remaining on board, especially the squad of mostly British glamorous young women who work as hostesses and personal assistants, the gruelling work regime has its rewards with tax-free salary packages of up to £250,000 a year. Many were recruited by Lady Green, rather than the tycoon himself, said the source.
‘It’s a great salary, and most of them have their own nannies and have properties in the hills above Monte Carlo,’ said the source. ‘But they have to put up with a lot for it. He treats women like pretty ornaments.
‘A couple of stewardesses came off the yacht when it came back after several months away on charter and they were clutching envelopes full of cash. It was several thousand pounds each, which was an end-of- season tip and they were holding on to each other and crying with exhaustion.’
As Sir Philip tried to avoid the media at his £2.3 million home in the grounds of the Canyon Ranch luxury spa in Tucson, Arizona, yesterday, his wife Tina and daughter Chloe (also pictured) were under siege at their penthouse flat in Monaco, apparently watching box sets on Netflix
Another source recalled how when a TV news crew tracked his yacht down and fired questions at him last summer during the scandal surrounding the collapse of BHS, he allegedly went through staff members’ phones on board checking messages and then turned his sights on people who work for him in London saying they must have tipped off the media.
‘He exploded and yelled every swear word under the sun,’ says a barman in Monaco’s port where his yacht is often moored. ‘A couple of the stewardesses were blinking back tears when they came for drinks after work.
‘But yachting can be like that, you are expected to tolerate all kinds of outrageous behaviour and you pick up a hefty tax-free sum at the end of the season.’ The source said Sir Philip’s inappropriate remarks would often leave those around him asking, ‘Can you believe he said that?’
‘His attitude is that everyone is either out to get him because they envy him or because they want some of his cash,’ the source added. ‘I’ve heard him saying that he hates most British people these days and that they’re all determined to send him to an early grave.
‘He seems quite hurt nobody really likes him in the UK and says everyone has forgotten the good he has done for the country purely because he is rich.’
As Sir Philip tried to avoid the media at his £2.3 million home in the grounds of the Canyon Ranch luxury spa in Tucson, Arizona, yesterday, his wife Tina and daughter Chloe were also under siege at their penthouse flat in Monaco, apparently watching box sets on Netflix.
‘They wanted to go shopping in Cannes this weekend but they can’t face going out,’ said a source. ‘Nobody in Monaco cares and shrugs it off when Philip is in the papers, but they don’t want to be dragged into all of this.’
Why do Kate, Naomi and Co STILL refuse to speak up over Sir Philip Green furore, asks ex-fashion editor LIZ JONES (who says she was bullied by Topshop tycoon for years)
BY LIZ JONES FOR THE MAIL ON SUNDAY
When Philip Green was outed in Parliament as being the businessman behind an injunction to quash a story about alleged sexual and racist bullying, I have to confess I felt a certain sense of schadenfreude.
He made my life while a fashion editor a misery for 13 years. I was eventually barred from his prestigious Topshop Unique catwalk show, made to peer through railings from the outside, because I’d dared to challenge him.
I would see endless photos of him standing next to every powerful woman in the fashion industry, a huge grin on that mahogany face, and wonder: ‘Why can they not see it? Why are they not just remaining silent, why are they in bed with a brute?’
Sir Philip Green could be loyal. After Kate Moss was pictured snorting cocaine, Green sent out a clear message of support by seating her next to him at the Topshop Unique catwalk show in September 2006. He called me afterwards to confirm he’d hired her. ‘What if she takes cocaine again?’ I asked. ‘Well, if she does it again, I will let her go. She deserves a chance’
For whatever the truth about allegations of sexual harassment and racism – both of which he vehemently denies – there was never any shadow of a doubt he was a bully.
And not a skinny finger was lifted by anyone in the industry because he’s not just a shop keeper: for years he virtually ran British fashion. He injected huge sums of money into supporting emerging British designers. He sponsored a glitzy venue every season at London Fashion Week, laying on a free buffet and bar – it’s the only time anyone got fed.
His umbrella brand, Arcadia, has an annual advertising spend in the UK fashion press in the tens of millions. So the British fashion industry’s deafening silence since Thursday has been shocking – but entirely predictable. For as one glossy magazine editor tells me: ‘We all feed from the same trough.’
On Friday a former Topshop buyer, whom I first met in Bangladesh at a garment factory after she’d left his brand, called me to say she’d read an article in the Telegraph by a socialite who says she was fondled by Green at a party, while he chatted to her boyfriend. He’d put his hand up the back of her skirt – apparently getting a kick from both her boyfriend’s ignorance and her powerlessness to stop him.
‘Why did no one challenge him sooner,’ the buyer asked me. ‘Who’s to say a hand cupping a buttock is worse than being shouted at while you’re on the phone to a supplier in the Far East – yelling that you must make them drop their prices.
Green with Naomi Campbell in October 2007. His umbrella brand, Arcadia, has an annual advertising spend in the UK fashion press in the tens of millions. So the British fashion industry’s deafening silence since Thursday has been shocking – but entirely predictable
‘It got to the point I felt sick every Sunday night at the prospect of going to work. I had to leave. I think bullying can be worse than sexual stuff – it felt like pure hatred. He will stamp on you, like a snail.’
Philip Green has bullied me since I conducted my first interview with him for the London Evening Standard, in November 2005. I met him in his boardroom at Arcadia HQ on Berners Street with its view of the London Eye before his chauffeur and bodyguard, Kevin, drove us to the Royal Academy, where his brands – Topshop, Evans, Miss Selfridge, Dorothy Perkins, Burton – were showing their wares to the press.
In the limo, he chain-smoked Philip Morris – ‘I have to have one pleasure in life’ – and slagged off every designer store we passed. ‘Stella McCartney? Never made two bob.’ When I asked about his employees, his reputation as a rottweiler, he told me: ‘I give a straight yes or no. They are empowered.’
He introduced me to his wife, Tina (who owns 92 per cent of Arcadia shares) and 14-year-old daughter, Chloe. When I later wrote that Chloe was wearing mukluk boots, which are made of fur, something banned in his stores, he complained to my editor, a soignee woman who that morning had no need of a blow dry.
But he could be loyal. After Kate Moss was pictured snorting cocaine, Green sent out a clear message of support by seating her next to him at the Topshop Unique catwalk show in September 2006. He called me afterwards to confirm he’d hired her. ‘What if she takes cocaine again?’ I asked. ‘What message does that send out to young customers?’
‘Well, if she does it again, I will let her go. She deserves a chance.’
At the launch of Moss’s first collection for Topshop, in May 2007, I wrote in the Daily Mail, where I’d become fashion editor, that he worked his way along the queue of young girls snaking along New Oxford Street to check they each knew their PIN – so they could buy his products. He called me, swearing, and told me I was ‘anti-Semitic’. ‘No,’ I said. ‘These girls don’t have much money. You were grooming them.’
I can’t help but remember the image, at his show inside the old Eurostar terminal in Waterloo, of American Vogue editor Anna Wintour, looking like the cat who got the zero fat cream because Green had arranged for her own personal escalator on which to glide in, and glide out (when approached for this story, her silence was deafening). Above, at Tate Britain in 2016
As, over the years, I refused to fawn over him, his mood swung between extremes. After I wrote a rave review of one collection, he sent me a gorgeous olive greatcoat, still warm from the model who’d worn it. Later, after a bad review, his right-hand woman called me. ‘He wants his coat back.’
The last time I spoke to Green was at an Evans show in the autumn of 2014. He’d sat me front row of this plus-size show (now that’s a laugh; in Oliver Shah’s biography, he is reported to have told a female buyer: ‘You’re absolutely f****** useless. I should throw you out the window but you’re so fat you’d probably bounce back in again’), as I’d been at the vanguard of a campaign to give big women the fashion they deserve.
Afterwards he asked if we could pose together for the paparazzi. I said no. Unlike every female glossy editor in the land, I felt to do so would betray my readers. I couldn’t bring myself to stand next to him, gurning.
Everyone in fashion knew he was a tyrant, but it’s unreasonable to expect teenage models and junior employees to stand up to him; you might wonder why anyone would sign a gagging order, but this was a seriously powerful man.
So it was the responsibility of the senior company executives, editors, publishing directors and model agents to be on the side of the women who toil in low-paid jobs in stores and factories and lap up glossy fashion magazines.
I can’t help but remember the image, at his show inside the old Eurostar terminal in Waterloo, of American Vogue editor Anna Wintour, looking like the cat who got the zero fat cream because Green had arranged for her own personal escalator on which to glide in, and glide out (when approached for this story, her silence was deafening).
I can’t help but think back to the meetings of magazine editors and London Fashion Week bigwigs in the boardroom of Vogue House, where not one woman had the courage to say, ‘What can we do about Philip Green?’
Or, later, as the BHS scandal erupted and the pension hole gaped, why even then did not one of them take him to task over the number of employees his greed was condemning to penury?
My guess? They were too busy counting his advertising spend, and nursing their 40 per cent Topshop discount card.
Even today, when I ask Caroline Rush CBE, chief executive of the British Fashion Council, who will have had more dealings with Green than most, if she ever took him to task, I’m told her PA is away on honeymoon. I email the British Fashion Council press office and ask them to call her on her mobile. How bad is this for British fashion? Will he show next season? She doesn’t ring back. It is her job to reply. This is what she is paid to do.
Or Baroness Karren Brady CBE (don’t you love all these titles?), who has been vocal about fighting sexism in business, and has been chair of Arcadia’s parent company, Taveta, for eight years.
I ask if she knew of allegations that Green gave female staff ‘lingering hugs’ and asked if they wanted their ‘bottoms slapped’ or, indeed, had paid substantial sums to settle complaints. Only her PA gets back to me: ‘Karren is away until next week.’ But this is important! She’s got a phone, hasn’t she? I visit her glorious villa next to Harrods; no one answers the door.
How about Naomi Campbell, who publicly attacked former Vogue editor Alexandra Shulman – now a Mail on Sunday columnist – for having too many white staff? Did Naomi ever find Green racist? No reply.
How about Kate Moss? Would she like to offer her support to him, given he’d been so loyal to her in the past? She was ‘about to get on a plane’, apparently.
Or Edward Enninful OBE, new super-diverse editor of UK Vogue? No reply.
Come on, then, Natalie Massenet, Net-a-Porter founder and one-time chair of the British Fashion Council? She can’t be scared of anyone. She’s a bleeding Dame! I get an email. ‘Natalie is going to reach out to you.’ I’m still waiting.
Isn’t it telling that the only powerful person in British fashion I can find who is willing to speak out about Green is a man – although he doesn’t want me to use his name.
No longer employed by Topshop, he tells me: ‘He’s outrageous. This is all typical of him. Doing it in the first place is unacceptable, covering it up is ridiculous.’
Is he a sexual predator, a racist? ‘The real issue is this: he will never be aware that he has done anything wrong. He just doesn’t get it, he will never change.’
Is that why he left Green’s company? ‘I left because I didn’t like the way he treated people. My mum told me that we are all equal, and that we should treat everyone with respect. He didn’t treat anyone with respect.’
I will leave the last word to a young woman braver than all the highly paid fashion mavens named above.
Annabelle is the daughter of Tony Brown, owner of Beales department store in Bournemouth, once retail director at BHS under Green.
She is 21 years old. ‘I’m honestly glad the world is seeing what a vile, slimy man Philip Green is.
‘I’ve known him since I was a young child and I’ve seen first-hand how he can be. Awful human all round, really.’