Sir Philip Green paid a female employee more than £1m to keep quiet after she accused him of kissing and groping her, the Daily Telegraph has reported.
The paper said the senior female employee was one of five members of staff who signed gagging orders after being bullied or harassed.
It reported a black male executive also received £1m after Sir Philip said he was “throwing spears in the jungle”. The Topshop boss denies allegations he behaved wrongly.
Lawyers representing Sir Philip told the Telegraph that he was a “passionate businessman, who can at times be over-exuberant and hot-headed” and that he could be “perceived at times as aggressive with senior and trusted staff”.
Sir Philip’s lawyers added: “It is further denied that any of Sir Philip’s conduct towards employees amounted to any type of crime, or anything that would amount to gross misconduct, or a serious risk to health and safety.”
The billionaire had previously used an injunction to stop the paper from publishing the allegations six months ago.
But the paper continued fighting a legal battle against the billionaire, and on Friday his action against the paper was formally ended by a High Court judge.
In the meantime, last October, Sir Philip’s identity became widely known when Lord Hain used the protection of parliamentary privilege to name the businessman in the House of Lords, saying he was “standing up for human rights”.
Shortly after he was identified, Sir Philip repeated his denial of any wrongdoing, telling the Mail on Sunday: “There has obviously from time to time been some banter, but as far as I’m concerned that’s never been offensive.”
He said on Friday that his legal action was now “pointless” but made the point that the Telegraph had pursued a “vendetta” against him.
What are the allegations in the Telegraph?
- A female employee received more than £1m after Sir Philip groped her, kissed her, called her a “naughty girl” and made comments about her weight
- A black male employee received £1m after Sir Philip mocked his dreadlocks and suggested he was “throwing spears in the jungle”
- A female employee received hundreds of thousands of pounds after Sir Philip sexually harassed her and grabbed her face
- A female employee received hundreds of thousands of pounds after Sir Philip put her in a headlock and groped her waist
- A male employee left his role with one month’s pay shortly after Sir Philip smashed his mobile phone
The paper said that all five staff had accepted the money in return for signing non-disclosure agreements (NDAs), preventing them from talking about their experiences.
The Telegraph’s report included testimony from other members of staff that it says witnessed the events.
Sir Philip told the paper he “categorically denies any unlawful… sexual behaviour”. He also denied any “unlawful… racist behaviour”.
Sometimes known as “gagging orders” or “hush agreements”, they typically prevent staff and ex-staff making information public.
Sir Philip had argued that the five former staff would be breaking the law if they breached NDAs they had signed in return for money.
His statement said the Telegraph had “knowingly and shamefully coaxed these [five] individuals to breach their obligations under these lawful agreements”.
But the paper’s editor, Chris Evans, said the Sir Philip case raised wider questions about the use of NDAs.
“In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein affair, we became aware that gagging orders called NDAs were being used to cover up allegations of sexual misconduct and racial abuse in the workplace. And that led to our investigation into Sir Philip Green and Arcadia.
“We maintain there is a clear public interest in telling people whether a prospective employer has been accused of sexual misconduct and racial abuse.”