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Managers of Britain's BHS blame collapse on 'lying' owner

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The management of British retailer BHS accused Dominic Chappell, the former bankrupt who bought the chain in 2015, of being a liar and fantasist who did not have the financial backing and retail experience he claimed would revive the group now in administration.

[LONDON] The management of British retailer BHS accused Dominic Chappell, the former bankrupt who bought the chain in 2015, of being a liar and fantasist who did not have the financial backing and retail experience he claimed would revive the group now in administration.

Appearing before lawmakers in parliament on Wednesday, BHS Chief Executive Darren Topp and former financial consultant Michael Hitchcock were scathing in their assessment of Chappell, whose Retail Acquisitions Ltd (RAL) bought the stores from billionaire Philip Green for 1 pound in March 2015.

Administrators last week started to wind down the clothing and homewares retailer, threatening 11,000 jobs, after they failed to buy a buyer for the struggling 88-year-old chain.

"We needed somebody who could raise finance and we needed somebody who could deal with our property portfolio," Mr Topp told a joint session of the Work and Pension and Business select committees. "Unfortunately as time progressed that unravelled in terms of that promise and it became clear to us that rather than putting money in, he had his fingers in the till."

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Neither Mr Chappell nor his lawyer were available to comment as Mr Chappell prepared for his questioning by the committees later on Wednesday over the collapse of BHS and the millions of pounds said to have been taken out of the business for fees under his ownership.

Mr Green is scheduled to appear next week.

Mr Hitchcock, who was brought in by Mr Topp in July 2015 when he became concerned about the actions of the owners, said he was "duped" by Mr Chappell.

"Like, I think, many others throughout this process, I think I was duped," Mr Hitchcock said when asked of his view of Mr Chappell and RAL. "I think the technical term is a mythomaniac, the lay person's term is he was a premier league liar and a Sunday pub league retailer at best."

The pensions regulator is also investigating whether Mr Green's Arcadia Group sought to avoid its responsibilities in the sale of the business and should be pursued for a contribution to make good BHS's 571 million pound (S$1.12 billion) pension deficit.

REUTERS