South London boy Philip Green is the antithesis of a corporate jobsworth.
He did not attend university, having left school at 15; he has no business school qualifications; he has no time for marketing or PR jargon; and allegedly has little time for the more academic side of business.
But this lack of tolerance for fluff and an aptitude for sharp deal-making has reaped enormous rewards, turning the heir to a small Croydon business into the 68th richest man on the planet.
His business activities over the past decade have changed the face of the British High Street
His business activities over the past decade have changed the face of the British High Street, and his hot pursuit of Marks & Spencer – the only UK retail group now larger than him – has been one of the enduring corporate dramas of the past year.
His first million was made by buying a struggling retailer for £65k and selling it for £3m.
Stupendous riches came with a host of stock market deals in the 1990s, including buying, splitting up and selling the Sears group, making a modest £150m in the process.
It was merely a platform for his next few attacks on the retailing orthodoxy, which would secure his position as the most aggressive and successful retailing impresario of his generation.
He bought the once ailing British high street stalwart Bhs for £220m in early 2000, and discovered an organisation riddled with bureaucracy and waste. Leaving no stone unturned in his efficiency drive, he oversaw a sevenfold increase in the company’s profits in the following two years.
He bought Arcadia – the group behind Burtons and Top Shop, among others – for £850m in 2002. Despite flat sales, profits at the chain have increased every year since the purchase, evidence once again of his cost-cutting acumen.
Green’s abiding passion is still streamlining retailers, cutting deals and making money. $6.3bn is clearly not enough, a personal fortune recently swelled by £1.2bn in Arcadia dividends which he paid out to himself and his wife Cristina – the largest bonanza for an individual in UK corporate history. Unwilling to surrender a penny, the Green family now resides in Monaco for tax purposes.