THE pensions watchdog has launched a probe into collapsed department chain BHS, as the company went into administration putting 11,000 jobs at risk across 164 stores.

The Pensions Regulator said it wants to make sure that the owners of BHS are not deliberately attempting to avoid their obligations, leaving it to the Pension Protection Fund (PPF) to pick up their pension liabilities.

BHS has debts of more than £1.3 billion, including a pension fund deficit of £571 million, holding 20,500 pensions in its scheme.

Read more: 1,000 Scottish jobs at risk as BHS collapses into administration

The Regulator is also in talks the department store's previous owner Sir Philip Green over plugging the pensions hole.

It also emerged yesterday how Mr Green had added a third superyacht estimated to have cost around £100million to his collection, sparking fury across social media.

It has also been reported how more than £25m was paid from BHS to its owner, Retail Acquisitions, in the 13 months between the department store’s sale and collapse into administration.


Retail Acquisitions, whose key figure is twice bankrupt former racing driver Dominic Chappell, bought BHS for £1 from Sir Philip Green in March 2015.

It has appointed administrators Duff and Phelps, known best in Scotland for its role in the Rangers FC saga, after last-ditch rescue talks with retailer Sports Direct fell down because of the pension deficit.

The collapse of BHS is the biggest retail failure since Woolworths folded in 2008 with the loss of almost 30,000 jobs.

Read more: How BHS went from high street perennial to administration

As the firm teetered on the brink the shopworkers' trade union said taxpayers should not be left to pick up the bill for the retailer's pension deficit.

Usdaw general secretary John Hannett said: "We don't want to see BHS staff locked out of discussions, sent to the back of the queue of creditors and treated like fixtures and fittings, as happened at Woolworth's.

"The Government needs to intervene now to protect taxpayers from picking up the bill for redundancy payments and safeguarding the Pension Protection Fund."


Sir Philip, who owns Topshop, is reported to have offered £80m towards the cost of BHS's pensions, though the regulator could still pursue further payment from the billionaire.

The Pensions Regulator has legal powers to pursue anyone they judge may have made the firm's pensions pot weaker going back many years. It has powers to compel firms to make payments to collapsed pension funds.

A spokesman for the Regulator said: "We can confirm that we are undertaking an investigation into the BHS pensions scheme to determine whether it would be appropriate to use our anti-avoidance powers.

"Such cases are complex. There is a clear process that must be followed and this can sometimes take a considerable amount of time."

Read more: Jobs threat as BHS collapse looms

Notices displayed on the firm's Glasgow city centre store on Monday warned customers they would not be entitled to refunds for any good purchased before April 25 with only exchanges offered.

BHS has 16 stores across Scotland and its Glasgow outlets were attracting a steady stream of customers on Monday, lured by discounted prices of up to 40 per cent.

Staff spoke of their shock and said they had been given very little information from managers.

One employee said: "We haven't been told anything. We don't know if we have got a week or a month.

"We didn't think it would get this far.

"I've been here for 20 years but some staff have been here for 40. The internet has hit us hard but supermarkets too have a lot to answer for."

Tricia Hunter, 61, from Rutherglen, said: "I'm disappointed. It's a good store and I just feel sad it's shutting, never to be seen again."

Ann Knox, 65, from Kirkintilloch, said: "I'm gutted. I liked it for our age group. When I heard it had gone into administration, I thought I would come in for a bargain."