No one except Sir Philip Green, his wife, Lady Tina Green, and their accountants know exactly how rich the self-crowned “king of the high street” actually is. But there is one thing in which everyone can be certain: the Greens are far less rich than they once were.
The couple, who own the Arcadia retail empire which collapsed into administration on Monday, were reportedly the UK’s fifth richest people in 2006 with an estimated fortune of £4.9bn, according to the Sunday Times rich list for that year.
A large chunk of that money came from a £1.2bn dividend in 2005, the biggest in British corporate history. No tax was paid on the dividend paid to Tina Green because of her base in tax-free Monaco.
Since then the Greens’ fortune has dwindled. In the latest edition of the rich list, published in May, the Sunday Times stripped the couple of their billionaire status, estimating that their fortune had fallen to about £950m.
Their wealth is likely to have shrunk further as Arcadia Group – which includes the Topshop, Burton and Dorothy Perkins chains – has experienced a collapse in sales due to the coronavirus pandemic and lockdowns.
The company said the pandemic had had “a material impact on trading across our businesses”. Most of Arcadia’s sales come through its high street stores, while its nimbler rivals have embraced internet shopping and reported bumper profits during the pandemic. Most of Arcadia’s 13,000 employees are being supported by the taxpayer via the government’s furlough scheme.
Arcadia had already been in serious financial difficulties, the loss-making company having been saved from collapse in June 2019 under a deal with creditors.
In May the compilers of the Sunday Times rich list described Arcadia Group as “worthless” due to huge debts. The couple’s stake in the business had been valued at £750m just 12 months earlier. It was the first time in 17 years that Green has not been included among the UK’s billionaires.
“The champagne lifestyle continues for Monaco-based Green, 68, and his family,” the newspaper’s entry for Green said. “While his Arcadia retail empire faces a bleak future.”
Robert Watts, the list’s compiler, said: “Sir Philip Green may have clung on to his knighthood, but we can no longer justify his status as one of the UK’s billionaires. This is the first time since 2002 he has not been in that top tier of the UK’s super-rich individuals.”