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BHS Owner Threatened To Kill Me And Boasted Of Being Ex-SAS, Says Its CEO

Darren Topp made the claims as MPs grilled BHS executives for more than four hours. However, owner Dominic Chappell later rejected the allegation.

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The CEO of BHS has claimed Dominic Chappell, the man who bought the high street retailer for £1 in March 2015 before it collapsed last week, threatened to kill him.

Darren Topp made the claim to the business select committee in a four-hour grilling of executives from BHS and Chappell's company Retail Acquisitions on Wednesday.

The committee, which is seeking to establish the details leading to the controversial sale and the consequential collapse of BHS, leading to thousands of job losses, heard how Chappell made the threat after being challenged on an unexplained £1.5 million payment out of the business to a new company called BHS Sweden.

MPs heard how Topp had received a phone call to say the funds had been taken from the business and immediately resolved to alert police before being made aware that Chappell had in fact authorised the payment. Chappell had his "fingers in the till", Topp claimed.

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When he called Chappell to challenge him on the transaction, the BHS owner threatened to kill him, Topp said.

"It's my business, I'll do what I want," Topp said Chappell told him. "If you kick off about it, I'll come down there and kill you."

Because Chappell had said he was ex-SAS and owned a gun, Topp said he was concerned by the threats.

However, Chappell later denied the allegation and told reporters outside the session: "Of course I haven't got a gun."

Topp also claimed that the decision to make the payment, which Chappell returned "minus £50,000 which he said was associated with fees", was "was the worst possible thing to do in my view. This was salaries for people on £7-an-hour working in our shops. It was disgusting."

BHS's former financial adviser Michael Hitchcock also launched an attack on Chappell, labelling him a liar.

"I think the technical term is a mythomaniac," he told MPs. "The layperson's term is he was a Premier League liar and a Sunday pub league retailer – at best.

"The credibility and ability of the people Dominic surrounded himself with were not fit for purpose. I fundamentally don't think he understood what was going on. I question his intelligence. He wasn't a retailer; the motive was purely for his own benefit.

"There is a big smell test which I adopt in a lot of these situations, and it just did not smell right."

Topp also said that when the administrators were called in, Chappell was on a boat in the Bahamas, despite claiming he was having an eye operation in the US.

MPs have been seeking to establish why Sir Philip Green, who owns the Arcadia Group of retailers including Topshop, sold BHS to Chappell, who at the time was a three-times-bankrupt, little-known businessman with little retail experience or, it would appear, capital to fund the turnaround of the business.

They heard claims that billionaire Green had suggested to Chappell that he should buy the business debt- and pension-free.

However, Chappell later agreed to take on the £571 million pension deficit, which is now being bailed out by the Pension Protection Fund – leaving pension-holders facing a cut in the value of their investments.

Chappell told MPs that Green went from "zero to very angry" whenever the pension was brought up.

He also claimed that Green had personally called in administrator Duff & Phelps, which acted as his "pony".

Green actively blocked the "rescue" of the business by Sports Direct founder Mike Ashley, Chappell claimed.

"Philip went absolutely crazy, screaming and shouting down the phone that he didn't want to get involved with Mike Ashley," and ended the deal, he alleged.

Over the course of two hours of questioning he repeatedly laid blame for the collapse of the business on Green, whom he accused of wanting to sell BHS in a hurry and having "mentally got rid" of it to avoid footing the bill for any further losses.

He also said the future of BHS was put in jeopardy by Green calling in a £35 million loan owed to Arcadia by the business days before it went into administration.

Chappell admitted that he had profited from BHS, but refused to tell MPs how much money he took out of the business – something he justified by saying he had worked "day and night".

Despite being asked twice, he said he would not detail all the payments now but would instead provide a spreadsheet as soon as possible.

He also apologised to the 11,000 people who now face losing their jobs.

"I'm upset there are 11,000 and others indirectly who have lost jobs," he said. "It's a travesty this has happened. It was avoidable. I must stand forward as the majority shareholder – we were part of the downfall of BHS."

Sir Philip Green will face MPs on the committee later this month.

Contact Sara Spary at sara.spary@buzzfeed.com.

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