Sir Philip is chairman of Arcadia Group, which owns brands including Dorothy Perkins, Miss Selfridge and Topshop. (AP: Kin Cheung)
Billionaire Topshop owner Sir Philip Green has been named in UK Parliament as the businessman accused of sexual harassment who had secured a court order barring the media from revealing his identity.
- The Daily Telegraph ran a front-page story on Tuesday accusing an unnamed businessman of abusing staff
- A UK Court of Appeal ruling had blocked the newspaper from naming him
- Case renews debate about corporate use of non-disclosure agreements
Sir Philip, whose Arcadia Group owns fashion chain Topshop and other brands, was named in the House of Lords by Labour politician Peter Hain using the Parliament’s free speech guarantee.
The billionaire had obtained a court injunction to stop British newspaper The Daily Telegraph from running stories about employee allegations of sexual harassment and racial abuse.
On Tuesday The Telegraph ran a front-page story accusing an unnamed businessman of sexual and racial abuse of staff who used non-disclosure agreements to silence them.
It was not able to identify the man in question after a Court of Appeal ruling on the same day blocked naming him, but Lord Hain was able to do so under parliamentary privilege, saying it was “in the public interest”.
In a statement issued after he was named in Parliament, Sir Philip said: “To the extent that it is suggested that I have been guilty of unlawful sexual or racist behaviour, I categorically and wholly deny these allegations.”
The UK’s Court of Appeal issued the publication prohibition this week, saying the five alleged victims had been “compromised” because they signed non-disclosure agreements as part of settlement packages in which they received substantial payments.
The injunction prevented the media from naming Sir Philip, but lawmakers’ words in Parliament are immune from legal action under parliamentary privilege.
Mr Hain said he had been “contacted by somebody intimately involved in the case”.
“I feel it’s my duty under parliamentary privilege to name Philip Green as the individual in question, given that the media have been subject to an injunction preventing publication of the full details of a story which is clearly in the public interest,” Mr Hain said.
In his statement, Sir Philip said he was not commenting “on anything that has happened in court or was said in Parliament today”.
The Daily Telegraph reported that interviews with five members of staff revealed victims had been paid “substantial sums” in return for legal commitments not to discuss their alleged experiences.
Following the naming of Sir Philip, leader of the UK Liberal Democrats Vince Cable said he could not see how the businessman could hold on to his knighthood.
Sir Philip Green at the 2009 opening of New York’s Topshop and Topman clothing store with supermodel Kate Moss. (Reuters: Lucas Jackson)
Past criticism of Sir Philip’s business practices
Sir Philip, 66, is chairman of Arcadia Group, which owns brands including Burton, Dorothy Perkins and Miss Selfridge, as well as Topshop.
A longtime fixture in the front row at London Fashion Week and frequently photographed with Kate Moss and other supermodels, the billionaire has drawn criticism in the past over his business practices.
In 2016 the House of Commons tried to strip him of his knighthood after he was embroiled in the collapse of department store chain BHS, which left 12,000 people out of work and tens of thousands with reduced pensions.
Sir Philip sold BHS for 1 pound after 15 years of ownership. He elicited further disapproval when it emerged he took hundreds of millions in dividends and other payments while he owned the business.
Media outlets have long criticised the use of court injunctions by the famous and powerful to keep stories out of the news.
As in other European countries, UK courts balance the right to free speech with individuals’ right to privacy and due process.
UK Conservative James Cleverly tweeted after Mr Hain’s unmasking of Sir Philip that he hoped people would realise injunctions “are nothing more than a good way to part with large sums of money and a bad way to keep things secret”.
@JamesCleverly: People must now realise that injunctions and super-injunctions are nothing more than a good way to part with large sums of money
The case has also renewed debate about the corporate use of non-disclosure agreements. The practice has been under scrutiny since it emerged last year that movie mogul Harvey Weinstein used them to keep alleged sex abuse victims from speaking out.
Dozens of women have accused Weinstein of sexual harassment and assault. He denies all non-consensual sexual contact.
In the wake of Sir Philip being named, British Prime Minister Theresa May promised to crack down on employers who use non-disclosure agreements “unethically”.