From Rags to Riches

Philip Green is best known as the high street fashion mogul who ripped up the traditional rule book and took over half the high street with his ownership of the Arcadia Group that comprises Topshop, Topman, Burton, Wallis, Dorothy Perkins, British Home Stores, Evans, Outfit and Miss Selfridge.

But, of course, this is not the case. Green doesn’t own the company at all as within 24 hours of purchasing Arcadia, he had ‘sold’ the company to his wife, Tina Green, who, co-incidentally, lives in Monaco and is therefore not subject to UK taxation. How terribly convenient, and what faith Sir Philip must have in the loyalty of his dear wife!

Sir Philip Nigel Ross Green was born in 1952 in South London to a successful Jewish property-developer father, joining his older sister Elizabeth in a comfortable middle-class home. At the age of nine he was sent to the now closed Jewish boarding school Carmel College in Oxfordshire, where he was studying at the time that his father suddenly died of a heart attack, leaving Green to inherit his father’s company at the age of 12. Being a naturally sharp and savvy trader, he left school aged 15 and did a spell as a shoe importer before borrowing £20,000, and launching a business buying cheap jeans from the Far East and selling them on to retailers in London at a considerable margin.

This was to be the foundation stone of the Arcadia Group: buy ‘em low and flog ‘em high. In 1979, Green purchased, at rock-bottom prices, the entire remaining stock of ten fashion designers who had gone into receivership, had the lot dry cleaned and wrapped in polythene to make it look new, and then purchased a shop in which to sell them direct to the public. He sold out in seven days and realised the public’s appetite for a fashion bargain – flogging schmutter to the masses.

Green has been called a spiv, a brawler and a former barrow boy – all claims made by his rivals, who have seen their market share and profits slide whilst Green saunters up the high street buying anything he fancies and turning it into a huge success. There were cheers from the cheap seats when his bid for Marks & Spencer was rebuffed, and he was told what to do with his £9bn bid. Green is not establishment and is therefore not deemed to be ‘one of them’. So miffed was he by his treatment over the M&S bid that he allegedly punched arch-rival, Stuart Rose, and then passed him his mobile phone so his wife could have a go at him too.

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Philip Green