Since June, Sir Philip Green, Britain’s so-called king of retail, has been mostly ensconced on his $100 million yacht, Lionheart, off the coast of Monaco. Apart from a game of pingpong on the deck of his yacht with an unlikely companion—Portuguese soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo—Green has barely been in the public eye after he staved off the collapse of Arcadia Group Ltd., owner of Topshop, one of the U.K.’s best-known clothing chains. But he’s still in the eye of a storm of criticism over sexual harassment allegations and a management style that allowed his retail empire to spiral to the brink of bankruptcy.
On June 12, Green pushed through a rescue plan for Arcadia by negotiating rent reductions from his landlords while agreeing to shed 1,000 jobs and shut almost 50 of his 566 stores. And a decade after entering the American market with a glitzy New York opening, he called it quits in the U.S., where his Arcadia subsidiary filed for bankruptcy. He closed all 11 Topshop stores in the country.
Green appears to have bought some time to turn the business around after agreeing to inject almost £400 million ($500 million) into the business, mostly to plug a hole in the company’s pension fund. But many people say there’s more pain to come as the brick-and-mortar retail carnage deepens in the face of online competition. Topshop could survive if Green were to pump even more money into it or sell it, but the rest of Arcadia’s brands are too weak to compete, says Richard Hyman, an independent retail analyst in London. “I don’t think the dust is going to settle,” he says. “These businesses would need a magic wand to make them fully fit for purpose. It’s the most unforgiving market. It’s not cyclical—it’s structural.”
But Green can’t blame only structural woes for his dethroning. His talent was enlisting female celebrities to promote his brands, with Kate Moss as his most successful recruit. She scattered stardust over Topshop when she started designing a line of clothes for the brand in 2007 and went on to produce 14 sellout collections. Over the past year, however, Green has been hit by allegations of sexual harassment by former employees and fitness instructors, making him Britain’s most high-profile figure caught in the #MeToo scandals. The reports have damaged his standing among the female consumers he spent his life courting. Green declined to discuss the business or the allegations against him, telling one female Bloomberg reporter, “I’m not getting involved, honey. Sorry.”