January 25, 2021

Arcadia owner pledges to bring forward £50m pension fund payment

December 02, 2020

Arcadia owner Lady Christina Green is to bring forward a £50m payment into the collapsed retailer's pension fund.

A statement on behalf of Sir Philip Green's wife - who is the registered owner of the company - said the payment in the next seven to ten days would complete a commitment made last year to pay £100m into the scheme.

Lady Green has already made two contributions of £25m each and the final sum had not been due until September 2021.

The announcement comes as political pressure mounts over Arcadia's collapse into administration earlier this week - which has put 13,000 jobs at risk.

Alok Sharma, the business secretary, revealed that he has written to the insolvency service asking it to widen any future investigation into the company's collapse to look into "whether any action by directors has caused detriment to creditors or to the pension schemes".

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has also weighed in, tweeting this week: "Philip Green should do the right thing and fill the Arcadia pension deficit".

Lady Green's pension scheme payments were first pledged last year as part of a rescue deal for the Topshop-to-Burton retail group which was signed off by stakeholders including the Pensions Regulator and landlords, which also resulted in store closures and rent cuts.

It was to prove only a temporary reprieve as the coronavirus crisis piled further pressure on the business, culminating in it calling in administrators from Deloitte.

They will now seek owners for Arcadia's high street brands which also include Dorothy Perkins and Miss Selfridge.

The collapse has raised questions about the implications for members of Arcadia's pension scheme - and what would become of the pledges by the Green family at the time of last year's restructuring.

A statement issued on Lady Green's behalf on Wednesday said: "Last year Lady Green committed to paying £100m into the company's pension scheme in three instalments.

"Two instalments of the amount of £25m each as agreed has already been paid, the third and final instalment of £50m was not due to be paid until September 2021.

"Lady Green is going to bring this payment forward to be paid in the next 7/10 days to complete the £100m commitment of payment."

The pledge comes hours after Sky News revealed that leading City financier Edi Truell was in talks with Arcadia's pension trustees about a deal that would see its 9,500 members absorbed into the Pension SuperFund (PSF).

Mr Truell and senior colleagues were understood to believe that there is potential for Arcadia's pension scheme members to receive higher benefits after a deal with his company than they will be in line for from the Pension Protection Fund (PPF) - the industry-funded lifeboat.

Pension experts have estimated that the Arcadia schemes have a so-called PPF deficit of about £350m.

Sir Philip has previously faced scrutiny over the pensions black hole at BHS.

The retailer collapsed in 2016, a year after the tycoon had sold it to serial bankrupt Dominic Chappell - who was recently jailed for tax evasion.

Sir Philip eventually paid up to £363m to resolve the BHS pension crisis.

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