LONDON - Should, as the rumour mill suggests, BBC bosses be quietly seeking another grizzled billionaire to host The Apprentice, they could do worse than sound out Sir Philip Green.
That's at least one conclusion to draw from claims about the irascible retail tycoon, and his colourful method of dealing with underperforming staff, which surfaced in a new book yesterday.
While more conventional captains of industry might snarl: 'You're fired!', Green, 66, is said to have once chastised an underperforming female buyer at his High Street chain with the words: 'You're absolutely f*****g useless. I should throw you out of the window, but you're so fat you'd probably bounce back in again!'
When Leslie Warman, a director of another Green company, spoke out of turn in a tense business meeting, he's alleged to have found himself on the receiving end of death threats.
'If you don't shut your f*****g mouth, I'll get my friends from south of the river to come for you and your family,' Green supposedly declared.
Then there is Brian Hill, who was head of menswear at BHS — which Green notoriously sold to a serial bankrupt for £1 in 2015, shortly before it collapsed, destroying 12,000 jobs.
He recalls that 'you would see young women, particularly, reduced to tears', after displeasing the famously irritable knight of the realm, adding: 'Philip would often have a meeting before he flew off in his jet to Monaco and he would just pick one person and batter them.'
Hill added: 'The horrible thing is that sometimes you would sit there and think: 'Thank God it's not me.' '
These and other accounts — some of which Green is understood to strongly dispute — were aired at the weekend by Oliver Shah, a business journalist at the Sunday Times who was himself once the subject of a tape-recorded death threat from the Topshop owner.
'If you want to come and call me a liar, come round to my office on Monday, call me a liar to my face, and face the consequences,' Green told Shah, during a dispute over a proposed newspaper story.
'How's that, if you're such a f*****g big boy? Because you will get thrown through the f*****g window. You're not a nice individual. You couldn't give a f**k what trouble you cause.'
The sparky exchanges are detailed in Damaged Goods, Shah's biography of Green which focuses heavily on the BHS scandal, during which he was dubbed 'Sir Shifty' for extracting around hundreds of millions from the troubled retail firm while leaving a hole of around £571 million in its pension scheme when he sold it.
With the retirements of around 25,000 store workers threatened, Green then disappeared to the Mediterranean to take delivery of a new £100 million super-yacht called Lionheart.
Shah's book, which comes out this week, is expected to detail the life and times of the roly-poly tycoon, before exploring how he became an object of national vilification — hauled before Parliament while MPs called for him to be stripped of the knighthood he owed to Tony Blair — over the ugly BHS affair.
It also examines the series of events which saw him eventually agree to pay £363 million back into the pension fund of the retailer, in an effort to put the scandal to bed.
Green has yet to dignify any of the book's claims with extended comment. However, he told a Sunday newspaper that the alleged incident involving death threats to Mr Warman was 'b******s'.
As for his supposedly abusive treatment of employees, he said: 'If you employ 40,000 or 50,000 people, you have arguments from time to time. That's how it goes.'
Asked about the workplace culture at Green's HQ, a friend added yesterday: 'Go to that office, and you'll see people who have been there five, ten, 15, 20 years.
'They work with him all day long. He has two PAs, who have been with him 18 years and 24 years.
'If the best [Shah] can do is to find one or two who don't like him, that says it all.'
Elsewhere, I gather that much like the current Apprentice host, Lord Sugar — who found himself in hot water last week after cracking a xenophobic joke about the Senegalese football team — Green may also soon find himself facing close attention from the race relations lobby.
Specifically, Damaged Goods suggests that the Monaco-based businessman once subjected an executive called Wesley Taylor, who is black, to racial abuse.
Taylor, who was brand director of the chain Burton, is said to have accused Green of using racist language towards him after he walked out from his job a couple of years back. Litigation between them was subsequently settled out of court.
Green has vehemently denied that claim. 'Philip finds any allegation of racism extremely hurtful,' said the friend.
'It's very damaging and, as anyone who knows him will tell you, it couldn't be further from the truth.
'The fact is that he's had a black chauffeur for the past 12 years. His name is Ray, and when he reads that his boss is a racist he feels like going round to punch this Shah man in the mouth.'
The topic is said to be particularly hurtful because Green recently became the grandfather of a mixed-race child called Jayden Meeks-Green.
His daughter Chloe, 27, gave birth to the infant last month, following a whirlwind relationship with Jeremy Meeks, a tattooed former gang member and divorced father, aged 34, who has served two jail terms in his native California. The couple are rumored to be engaged.
The friend says Green is unlikely to sue over the claims, however: 'Philip hasn't read the book and isn't going to.
'He intends to ignore it. Why take a writer to court? It would only bring him attention, which is what he wants.
'However, I gather that lawyers were consulted last week after Shah made inquiries about a leaked email regarding the U.S. expansion of Topshop, the most high-profile remaining brand in Green's empire.'
Elsewhere, Damaged Goods is also expected to reveal details of Green's lavish spending habits, including the legendary 50th birthday party which saw him fly 220 guests — including Jeremy Beadle and Sir Stirling Moss — to a luxury hotel in Cyprus for several nights.
The £5 million bash, to which guests were told to bring flesh-coloured underwear, culminated in a party during which they were asked to wear togas which had been left in their bedrooms.
A thousand bottles of wine, 400 of champagne, and 40kg of caviar were consumed, while Rod Stewart, Tom Jones, and the Seventies R&B band Earth, Wind & Fire performed.
Green, who was dressed as the Emperor Nero, was handed a range of gifts, including a Harley Davidson motorbike, a Ferrari sports car, and a solid gold Monopoly set with real banknotes.
Guests were flown to and from the event in a specially chartered jet from Luton, customised with Green's initials.
Its flight safety video was also personalised, the book claims, with a risque joke about cocaine: 'I would like to introduce you to the captain (image of boggle-eyed pilot appeared on the screen).
'His name is Charles. Some of you may have been this high with Charlie before, but for others it's a new experience.'
A harmless gag? Quite so, says Green's friend: 'He's never taken an illegal drug in his life, but if he reads too much more of this nonsense, he might have to take it up soon.'
- DAILY MAIL