High street mogul Sir Philip Green has been urged to give the Pensions Regulator oversight of any takeover deal, after reports his empire could be sold to Chinese buyers.
Frank Field, chairman of the Commons Work and Pensions Committee, has written to the billionaire retail tycoon arguing that a review of any deal would “reassure pension scheme members that they were not being hung out to dry”.
Mr Field added: “Erring on the side of caution would spare you another moral hazard investigation.”
Sir Philip’s team have however rebuffed rumours of a sale, as reported in the Sunday Times, to Chinese textiles firm Shandong Ruyi.
His spokesman said: “Neither Sir Philip nor any of the directors of Arcadia have ever met or had any contact with Shandong Ruyi, and they have never been to the Arcadia offices as was suggested to look at the company’s books.
“We have the greatest respect for them as an organisation, but have had no dealings or contact with them.”
He added: “For the avoidance of doubt the group is not in discussions with any party regarding a partial or total disposal.”
Arcadia owns a string of prominent high street clothing brands including Topshop, Topman, Dorothy Perkins, Burton Menswear, Miss Selfridge, Outfit, Evans and Wallis.
The Work and Pensions Committee released documents from the Arcadia Schemes’ trustees in April last year showing a £565 million deficit at the time of the March 31 2016 valuation.
As part of a recovery plan, Sir Philip has agreed to pay £50 million a year until August 2019 and £54.5 million from then until March 2026, in contrast to £24.3 million a year previously.
An Arcadia spokesman added: “Arcadia has undertaken to pay £50m a year into its pension fund, the most recent payment being made this month.
“The group remains unborrowed at the operating level and has substantial property assets.”
The renewed pressure on Sir Philip comes after he was lambasted by MPs over the collapse of department store chain BHS.
The retailer’s demise hit 11,000 jobs, 19,000 pension holders and left a £571 million black hole in the pension scheme.
Sir Philip, who sold the chain for £1 to Dominic Chappell before it plunged into administration, later agreed to pay £363 million towards the pensions deficit.