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How shamed Philip Green went from lowly salesman to greedy BHS tycoon

Mirror logo Mirror 25/06/2018 Graham Hiscott
Philip Green wearing a suit and tie smiling at the camera: Green is subject of new biography © PA Green is subject of new biography

The collapse of BHS, leaving a giant pensions black hole, has made Sir Philip Green public enemy number one for many.

A new biography charts Green’s journey from lowly salesman to king of the high street, to a fallen hero many people want to see stripped of his knighthood.

Damaged Goods, by Oliver Shah, paints a picture of a “vulgar bully” who would pick on young, female members of his staff in particular.

It tells how Green, 66, was his mum Alma’s favourite and of his feud with sister Elizabeth. Shah also describes Green’s extravagant lifestyle.

a person standing in a room: Book claims Green had feud with sister Elizabeth © Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited Book claims Green had feud with sister Elizabeth Details of his 50th birthday party will sicken those who lost their livelihoods when BHS failed.

His wife’s gift was a gold Monopoly set. Now many people think Green should go directly to jail and not pass go. His spokeswoman refused to comment yesterday.

Childhood - Cash was king for emotionally cold mother

Far from a rags-to-riches tale, Green was born into a well-off family from North London in March 1952.

His mum Alma built a buy-to-let property business and dad Simon’s firm repaired radios and rented out TVs.

But the book claims the children’s upbringing was “emotionally barren”. Of Alma, it says she “starved her children of affection, relentlessly drilling into them the importance of making money above all else” and played them off against each other to “toughen them”.

Alma’s overbearing personality was in contrast to her husband who, it is alleged, once became addicted to painkillers he was taking for crippling headaches. When Green was just 12 his father died, aged only 49.

“Alma reacted with a characteristic lack of emotion. She is said to have telephoned one of Simon’s siblings and told him, ‘Your brother’s lying here dead. You’d better deal with it’,” says the book.

Green was at a boys’ boarding school in Oxfordshire but is said to have suddenly left, aged 15, with claims he had been expelled, something dismissed by his then headmaster.

Green forged a career in business and became the apple of his mother’s eye.

His sister Elizabeth became a teacher and married a graphic designer.

The book claims they never saw eye to eye.

It says: “Sir Philip Green and his sister, Elizabeth, had continued their childhood feud into adulthood.

“While he pursued material wealth, she trained as a teacher, then ran off to live in an ashram in India.” The pair came together for Alma’s 90th birthday party, in 2007.

During the bash, Green’s children Chloe and Brandon are said to have performed a song with the lyrics: “Hello, Grandma. It’s you we should be thankin’, for what Dad’s been bankin’. It’s ‘cos of you we don’t have to work.”

When Alma died, aged 96, she is said to have left about £2.3million in trust to Green and his wife Tina, but just £100,000 to Elizabeth.

Deals - Determined and driven

What Green lacked in formal qualifications, he more than made up for in chippy determination.

Starting out working for a shoe importing business, Green began to rake in money through a series of shrewd business deals.

The book described a time when Green convinced his cousin, who worked for British sports car maker Lotus, to get hold of a new model that had a long waiting list.

Green allegedly sold it for a profit a week or two later, much to his cousin’s “amazement and indignation”.

But not all his brash deal-making paid off. In the early 80s, Green opened a discount designer shop in London’s upmarket Mayfair and persuaded actress Joan Collins to collaborate on a denim range.

Joan Collins et al. posing for the camera: Green and Joan Collins cut a jeans-shaped cake © Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited Green and Joan Collins cut a jeans-shaped cake The launch event featured the star of hit movie The Stud and soap opera Dynasty cutting a chocolate cake in the shape of a pair of jeans.

Green boasted of booming orders but the range flopped and had to be sold off at huge discounts.

The tycoon was also said to be heavily involved in deal-making for top-flight football clubs and, at one stage, had close business dealings with X Factor supremo Simon Cowell.

Wealth - Millions go on parties and yachts

The opulence and extravagance of Green’s lifestyle are typified by his birthday celebrations.

The 220 guests at Green’s 50th party were flown on a private plane to a luxury hotel in Cyprus.

A flight safety video said: “It is vital at this stage that all your hand luggage is labelled correctly,” the book says.

a boat parked on the side of a building: Green's yacht, Lionheart © Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited Green's yacht, Lionheart “The appropriate labels should read Louis Vuitton, Christian Lacroix or Chanel. For this flight only, British Home Stores is also acceptable.”

Some 30 trucks delivered 18,000 flower stems, four drum kits, 1,000 bottles of wine, 400 bottles of champagne and 88lbs of caviar for celebrity guests including Sir Stirling Moss and Jeremy Beadle to enjoy.

The owner of £100million luxury yacht Lionheart was lavished with valuable gifts, including a solid gold Monopoly set with real money from wife Tina, a Harley Davidson motorbike and a Ferrari sports car.

Messages came from stars including Britney Spears, Bruce Willis and Sylvester Stallone, who apparently told him: “Men don’t really become sexy until they’re 50.”

a person standing in front of a mirror posing for the camera: Green with his wife wear togas at his 50th birthday party © Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited Green with his wife wear togas at his 50th birthday party The celebrations, said to have cost £5million, culminated in an infamous toga party at which Green dressed like Emperor Nero as Rod Stewart performed.

His 55th birthday in 2007 was even more ostentatious.

The party, rumoured to have cost £20million, was held on an island in the Maldives, with live music performances by Gladys Knight & the Pips, George Michael, Jennifer Lopez and Ricky Martin.

BHS - Chain failed one year after sale

Green sold the struggling high street chain in 2015 for £1 to dubious investors with no retail experience, led by former bankrupt businessman Dominic Chappell.

A year later it went to the wall with 11,000 job losses and a £571million black hole in its pension fund.

a person standing in front of a building: BHS collapsed after sale © Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited BHS collapsed after sale After lengthy talks, and a wave of criticism, Green agreed a £363million settlement with pension regulators last year.

There are questions over the rest of Green’s Arcadia empire, which includes the Topshop, Topman and Miss Selfridge chains and has 22,000 staff.

The deficit in Arcadia’s two pension funds was said to have stood at nearly £1billion in March 2016.

Lady Green - The go-go dancer who won his heart

Along with his mother, the other woman who has been an influence in Green’s life is wife Tina.

Philip Green et al. posing for a photo: Lady Tina Green with her husband, and children Chloe and Brandon © Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited Lady Tina Green with her husband, and children Chloe and Brandon By the time the pair met in the mid-80s, Tina Palos – as she was then – was about to divorce from husband Robert, who was 14 years older than her. They had two children, Stasha and Brett.

She and Robert ran a clothing business in South Africa but, the book claims Tina was a “party girl”, the first female DJ in Johannesburg and “a go-go dancer who performed with the Beach Boys”.

A business associate of Green’s, George Maude, says in it: “Tina was a bit like Philip – what she wanted, she tried very hard to get. She wanted Philip and she tried every which way to get him.”

Five years later they married in 1990, apparently when Tina became pregnant with daughter Chloe. They went on to have a son, Brandon.

Tina, like Green’s late mother Alma, is also known for her strong personality. She now controls the family holding company, Taveta Investments, and has been a staunch defender of her husband over the years.

Fashion designer Chloe, who had son Jayden last month with “Hot Felon” Jeremy Meeks, is close to her dad and urged him not to buy M&S.

a group of people posing for the camera: Green's yacht, Lionheart © Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited Green's yacht, Lionheart

Temper - 'Bully' made victims cry

Green’s explosive outbursts have become legendary. The book recounts one occasion when Green erupted.

Annoyed at what a director at his firm was telling him, it’s claimed he said: “You’re f***ing useless. I should throw you out of the window but you’re so fat you’d probably bounce back up again.”

Another executive described the tycoon as a “vulgar bully”.

He went on: “You would see young women, particularly, reduced to tears.

“Philip would often pick on one person and just batter them. Sometimes you would sit there and think, ‘Thank God it’s not me’.”

Green is also alleged to have told businessman Leslie Warman: “If you don’t shut your f***ing mouth, I’ll get my friends south of the river to come for you and your family.”

Green said the alleged Warman incident was “b*****ks”.

He added: “If you employ 40,000 to 50,000 people, you have arguments.”

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