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Sir Phillip Green

Sir Philip Green is a British billionaire businessman who owns some of the United Kingdom's largest retailers, including British Home Stores (Bhs/BHS) and the Arcadia Group. He is Britain's fourth richest man, with a total of 2,300 shops in the UK and assets worth around 3.61bn. His assets currently control 12% of the UK clothing retail market, making his empire the second-largest in the sector. The leader, Marks and Spencer, has been the target of two unsuccessful takeover bids from Green.

Early Beginnings

Philip Green was born into a Jewish family on March 15, 1952 in Croydon, in South London, and has a sister, Elizabeth, five years his senior. The family moved to Hampstead Garden Suburb, a middle-class enclave in north London, and at the age of nine he was sent to the now-closed Jewish boarding school Carmel College in Oxfordshire. When his father died of a heart attack, at the age of twelve, Philip was in line to inherit the family business. After leaving boarding school at 15, he worked for a shoe importer before travelling to the US, Europe and the Far East. It was on his return that he set up his first business with a 20,000 loan, importing jeans from the Far East to sell on to retailers in London.

In 1979, Green bought up the entire stock of ten designer label clothes sellers who had gone onto receivership for extremely low prices. He then had the newly-bought clothes sent to the dry cleaners, got them put on hangers, wrapped them in polythene to make them look new, and then bought a place to sell them to the public. He made his first million by cleverly buying, turning around and finally selling a failing retailer called "Jean Jeannie". These early examples of entrepreneurship and clothes retailing expertise were to foreshadow his later bigger successes.

Green's Empire Expands

In 1988, he became Chairman and Chief Executive of a quoted company called "Amber Day", which sold menswear. The shares performed well, but then suffered a series of profit downgrades; indeed, in 1992 he was forced to resign by the company's leading institutional shareholders. He has not led a quoted company since. Ever since, he has relied upon a close group of like-minded entrepreneurs, including Tom Hunter (a sports shoe millionaire and one of the richest men in Scotland) and the Barclay brothers, to help fund his buccaneering forays into the UK's High Streets. In the early 1990s Philip Green had bought the department store chain Owen Owen which at the time had about 12 branches trading under the Owen Owen and Lewis's brand names. During his ownership most of these department stores were sold to other operators including Debenhams and Allders or were closed leaving only the Liverpool branch trading as Lewis's remaining. In 2004 this remaining store was sold off to David Thompson.

In 1995 he linked with Tom Hunter to buy another company,OLYMPUS, as part of a merger. The price was one British pound, plus the assumption of 30 million in debt. Green and his partners sold the company three years later to JJB Sports for 550 million. Green walked away 73 million richer. That encouraged the Barclay brothers to back him in the 538m acquisition of the Sears retail chain (a different Sears from the large American company) in 1999. The subsequent disposal programme (including selling some of the assets, ironically, to Arcadia) raised 729m and confirmed his reputation as a man who could deliver within the retail sector.

Philip Green came to public attention in 1999 when he attempted to make a 7 billion hostile bid for Marks and Spencer. However the leaking of the bid forced up M&S's share price. The board of M&S were also hostile to the bid and sought to block it. Eventually Green gave up and purchased the ailing retail chain BHS for 200 million. His takeover came when everyone else had dismissed the company as a failing brand and unfixable. Green put up 50 million of his own money and borrowed another 150 million to seal the deal. Green completely turned the company around, rebranded it as Bhs, and the chain is now thought to be worth over 1.2 billion. Since he took over, profits have tripled to over 200 million a year.

Next, Green purchased the Arcadia Group, which owns well-known High Street chains such as Burton, Dorothy Perkins, Evans, Miss Selfridge, Outfit, Topshop/Topman and Wallis in 2002. Recently he has added the Etam chain to the group. Green paid 850m, and repaid the 808m he borrowed to finance the deal in two years, a move that stunned commentators when it was announced. The Arcadia Group has been enormously profitable, and currently has pre-tax profits of around 380 million.

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