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31 March 2004
Daily Record
I don't feel rich..I fret over buying petrol for £90m jet and yacht

HE'S one of Britain's richest businessmen,has a home in Monaco and paid £500,000 for an England World Cup rugby jersey.

His boat is a multi-million pound luxury yacht moored off the French Riviera not far from his private jet. Together,they cost about £90million.

But Philip Green still worries about having enough money to fuel his expensive hobbies.

And, as he told an audience of Scots entrepreneurs, he only considers money he has in his pocket as real wealth.

That's despite a jet-set lifestyle which included a lavish 50th birthday toga party where the entertainment was provided by Tom Jones and Demis Roussos.

Green, who left school at 16 with no qualifications, was asked what it was like to wake up one day personally worth £1billion.

He's actually worth nearly £3billion but says those valuations don't concern him.

'It's all nonsense. I believe you are only worth what you have in your pocket,' said the 52-year-old entrepreneur.

'Your assets aren't worth anything until they are converted into cash.

'In the dot.com boom, a lot of people were supposedly worth a fortune on the Monday but by Friday they were skint.'

Green told how a Scottish banker used to say to him: 'All you need to worry about is having enough money for the petrol in your boat.'

Green was invited to Glasgow by his friend Tom Hunter, the Scots entrepreneur, to tell the members of the Entrepreneurial Exchange how to succeed.

He says it's simple really. Work hard, be passionate and care about your business. Oh, and be lucky.

That's more or less how he has built up a huge retail empire over 20 years. He owns Bhs, Debenhams, Top Shop, Miss Selfridge and Burtons among others.

If you were shopping at the weekend, there's a good chance some of your money is heading for the bank account of the 84th richest man in the world.

Green likes to spend a bit too. His wife Tina lives permanently in a Monaco apartment with children Chloe and Brandon.

At his 50th birthday party in Cyprus, the guests had to wear togas as part of the Roman theme. But when you're worth a few bob, you usually get what you want.

And Green's no stranger to celebrities, having hobnobbed with the Duchess of York among others in the course of his work for charity.

But Green's first love is football. The Spurs fan and former director was rumoured to have brokered Louis Saha's £12million transfer from Fulham to Manchester United on Mohamed al Fayed's yacht He's known as being grumpy and private but said he wanted to come to the event in Glasgow because it was somewhere special.

'Scotland's been lucky for me and I wanted to give something back,' he said.

'I hate doing those dinners and listening to people going on and on about how they did this and that but I wanted to come here.

'Mind you, the first time I was in Scotland, I bought What Every Woman Wants only they forgot to tell me that someone had taken the word 'Not' off the front of the sign.

'I learned a valuable lesson. Don't just visit one store before you buy the company.'

Green's Amber Day company was behind that deal in 1990 but he was forced off the board two years later after announcing annual profits were far below forecast.

He vowed never to work for a public company again.

Now his firms own around 15 per cent of the High Street and employ 40,000 people in 2500 outlets. He's been linked with just about every major deal going and was in the running for Safeway last year. Now he's being linked with a bid for Woolworths.

Green's first deal came about almost by accident in 1984 and he paid just £65,000 for the company. Six months later, he sold that company for £7million and was on his way.

'The guy I paid£65,000to wanted £6million but I discovered he was going bust so I told him that's all hewas going to get,' he said.

'Six months later, I sold the business for £7million just days before I had to pay the bank back.'

What happened to the guy he bought it from isn't known.

Hunter got to know Green in the early 1990s and called on his help in 1995 when his Sports Division company was trying to buy Olympus Sports. Olympus were proving difficult because they didn't know Hunter so he called Green and they did the deal together.

It made Hunter the mega-rich tycoon he is today. When Hunter sold Sports Division, he netted £260million and Green got £30million. They call each other at least once a week and Hunter owns five per cent of Bhs.

Green's style is to get down on to the shop floor, feel the fabrics and talk to the people. He puts his own cash into companies and is scathing about many bosses. 'The difference between someone in a plc and me is I invest my money in my companies,' he said.

Green's got so much money that he doesn't need to work. So why does he?

'I love what I do. You have to have the passion. The day you don't is the day you sell upand get out,'he said.

'I tried to give it up for three months but I couldn't. I thought it was better to go back to work rather than get done for murder.'


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