As Arcadia, Sir Philip Green’s empire, circled the drain with ever increasing velocity, it was tempting to see the 68-year-old retailer’s arc as a rags-to-rags saga—played out in (sorry) the rag trade. But with a double caveat: first, Green was actually raised solidly middle-class, and even as his business world—which has included TopShop, Miss Selfridge, Dorothy Perkins, and, until he sold it for £1 in 2015 ($.75 back then), BHS—finally crumpled around him this week, he’s not going to be sleeping rough in Westminster anytime soon. Right now, in fact, the “king of the high street” is said to be striding the decks of—or, in any event, holed up somewhere on board—his 300-foot floating gin palace Lionheart, moored in Monaco, the principality the Greens like to call home. And the Daily Mail reports that Green is Maldives-bound for the holidays, to unwind from all the stress at a $40,000-a-night resort.
So there are rags and there are rags. In between came the all-too-predictable swirl of nouveaux riches, indulgences, and controversies: the private Gulfstream, the HQ suite at the Dorchester, the 50th-birthday toga party on Cyprus (Tom Jones and Rod Stewart entertaining), the 55th-birthday eco-spa party in the Maldives (George Michael this time), the fancy fashion-world friends, the philanthropy, the charges of tax avoidance, the allegations of sexual harassment (denied) and racism (denied), the knighthood granted by then prime minister Tony Blair (2006, “services to the retail industry”), the hater M.P.’s trying to have the knighthood revoked (2018, see allegations above; more currently, a petition to de-knight him has just reached 230,000 signatures). All of it rich, as it were, material, and, sure enough, last year Green was satirized in the Michael Winterbottom film Greed, starring Steve Coogan.
Arcadia, which is officially owned by Green’s wife, Tina, had been losing market share for several years, having recently closed 550 stores and furloughed thousands of workers. Its coronavirus-hastened collapse on Monday—“tragic,” according to one minister—now puts 13,000 jobs in jeopardy. Pensions, too: the employees’-plan deficit is estimated at $467 million. When BHS went under, the Greens were prevailed upon to pony up roughly that amount to replenish pensions, and now the couple, who are still worth billions, face pressure to do the same with Arcadia’s employee pensions. It’s “unquestionably a moral case for the Green family to do the right thing,” the Labour M.P. in charge of the Work and Pensions Committee told the Daily Mail.
Green’s tireless devotion to high living may not waver, but his retail career is probably over. As the former TopShop brand director Jane Shepherdson recently told The Times of London, “Sir Philip has had an awful lot of bad publicity for the past five years and I’m not sure young female shoppers want to associate with someone like that.” Another retail source was even blunter: “I thought he was smarter than this.” Self-made, self-unmade.
Ghislaine Maxwell’s lawyer says her client has endured especially harsh treatment in prison while she awaits trial—set for July—on federal charges, including sex trafficking and perjury in connection with the Jeffrey Epstein case. Maxwell, says the attorney, is being “excessively and invasively searched and is monitored 24 hours per day,” the same as “individuals convicted of terrorism and capital murder.” The British socialite, who has denied the charges, is incarcerated at Brooklyn’s Metropolitan Detention Center, a tough facility whose guests have at one time or another included Michael Cohen, Al Sharpton, R. Kelly, Allison Mack, Martin Shkreli, and 6ix9ine. But there’s always a silver lining: prisons are not known for their cuisine, and consequently Maxwell, a vegan, is said to have shed 25 pounds.
In other hoosegow-related news, Harvey Weinstein’s two ex-wives, Eve Chilton and Georgina Chapman, have frozen $6 million of his remaining assets. The imprisoned former movie mogul is appealing his conviction for rape and assault, but, confirms his spokesman, he has been unable to file due to lack of funds: “His appeal probably will get filed at some point but his lawyers are not doing the paperwork because he can’t pay for it.” Weinstein, who faces additional charges in Los Angeles and London, is serving a 23-year sentence at the Wende Correctional Facility, near Buffalo. Other Wende guests have included Mark David Chapman (ongoing), Jack Henry Abbott, Jimmy Burke, and Robert Chambers.
Continuing one of the week’s subplots—the high-and-mighty brought low-and-tiny—George Magan, Baron Magan of Castletown, a 75-year-old financier (and, briefly, Tory Party treasurer) once said to be worth as much as $250 million, has been declared bankrupt and is reportedly deep in debt. “Castletown Cox, one of Ireland’s great Palladian mansions and which had a $40 million art collection, has been sold with its 513-acre estate in Co Kilkenny,” reports The Times of London. “The peer’s $8 million home in Kensington, west London, has also been sold and his wife, Lady Magan, 73, has tried to have him jailed for concealing financial documents.” Yikes. Lord Magan’s troubles, said the newspaper, “appear to stem from a decision to place many of his assets, including Castletown Cox, into trusts for his children to legally reduce his tax bills.” He is on leave from the House of Lords.
The F.B.I. has reportedly been investigating the San Francisco–based sexual-wellness company OneTaste—which was founded in 2001 by Nicole Daedone and teaches O.M. (“orgasmic meditation”), which includes having one’s clitoris stroked for exactly 15 minutes (a timer helpfully goes off)—ever since a 2018 Bloomberg Businessweek story portrayed it as an organization that “ran on predatory sales and pushed members to ignore their financial, emotional, and physical boundaries in ways that left them feeling traumatized.” Now, in the new BBC podcast The Orgasm Cult, the journalist Nastaran Tavakoli-Far reveals specifically that the F.B.I. is looking into “allegations including sex trafficking, prostitution, and violations of labor laws.” The group has denied the charges but has reportedly put its activities, however one chooses to characterize them, on hold.
George Kalogerakis is a Writer at Large for air mail