Dominic Chappell has told a court that The Pension Regulator carried out a “hostile and deliberate act” against BHS when it served him with an investigative notice.
The document, known as a “section 72 notice”, was given to Mr Chappell shortly after his purchase of the retailer for a pound in 2015.
It confirmed that the regulator was investigating the health of the company’s pension scheme.
Mr Chappell told Brighton Magistrates’ Court that it had “a fundamentally damaging impact on the business” because it limited his ability to attract new members of staff to run the company.
He said: “It is very challenging for high-profile individuals to come into a company that has been served with a section 72 because they could end up in the seat where I am sitting today.”
Mr Chappell is facing three charges of “neglecting or refusing” to provide information requested by the Pensions Regulator. He denies the charges.
The first two counts are connected to the purchase of BHS by his company, Retail Acquisitions Limited, while the third is connected to the regulator’s investigation into a leak of information.
Mr Chappell led a takeover of BHS in 2015, paying a nominal pound to buy the company from Sir Philip Green’s retail empire.
Image: BHS collapsed in 2016
BHS, founded in 1928, employed around 11,000 people and had more than 19,000 people in its pension scheme, but it collapsed a year later, leaving a deficit in its pension scheme that was valued at £571m.
Giving evidence in the case for the first time, Mr Chappell said he had “provided as much information as we possibly could”.
He said he had “worked tirelessly” to support the regulator but claimed he was caught up in a dispute between the regulator and Sir Philip Green, the previous owner of BHS.
“We were the ping-pong ball between the regulator and Sir Philip Green”, said Mr Chappell.
“The regulator thought Sir Philip was effectively still the owner. The Pensions Regulator took a particularly aggressive stance against us.”
Mr Chappell gave some insights into his turbulent 13-month tenure as the owner of BHS.
He said Sir Philip had used a financial instrument, known as a qualifying floating charge, as a “weapon of mass destruction” to hasten BHS’s collapse and also alleged that Sir Philip’s company, Arcadia, had spent two days shredding documents before the sale of BHS was completed.
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Sir Philip, who recently agreed a £363m deal with the Pension Regulator to help set up a new pension fund for BHS staff, has always denied any wrongdoing in connection with the failure of BHS.
The case continues.