Sir Philip Green’s family is to make a £50m payment into Arcadia’s stricken pension fund 10 months earlier than planned as calls grow for the entrepreneur to shore it up further using his remaining fortune.
The decision was announced shortly after business secretary Alok Sharma asked the Insolvency Service to examine whether the conduct of Arcadia’s directors led to problems at the retirement scheme, which has an estimated £350m deficit.
Sir Philip’s wife Tina, the ultimate owner of the family’s retail empire, pledged to speed up the last tranche of a previously promised £100m injection into the fund. She has already paid £50m and the remaining £50m was due in September next year.
If the scheme’s black hole is not plugged, its 10,000 members will fall into the Pension Protection Fund lifeboat and lose up to 20pc of their retirement income. The firm’s collapse this week also puts 13,000 jobs at risk.
Lady Green will make the final payment in the next seven to 10 days, an Arcadia spokesman said.
However, the funds do not represent new money and the family may be urged to pledge even more. They pumped £363m into the BHS pension scheme in 2017 following the department chain’s collapse after Sir Philip sold it to former bankrupt Dominic Chappell, now a convicted tax evader.
John Ralfe, a pensions expert and a witness during the BHS scandal, said: “I wouldn’t be popping bottles of champagne just yet.
“The [acceleration of payment] would be part and parcel of the original agreement she [previously] signed. This is the first and easiest piece of the jigsaw. It takes the deficit [down] to about £300m.”
Former pensions minister Ros Altmann welcomed the advance payment but warned that savers were still likely to suffer.
Baroness Altmann said: “[Lady Green] has fulfilled what’s asked of her and it is hard to see that she has any further regulatory or legal obligations to the scheme.”