Book review: How Philip green built his high street empire

Is Philip Green good or bad?

I just finished reading: "How Philip green built his high street empire" by Stewart Lansley and Andy forrester. I'm really interested in reading about business people and this book did not disappoint. Interestingly, the book isn't autobiographical and it is clear that Sir Philip didn't give any interviews for the book. As such, the book seemingly takes an objective stance when looking at the life of this impressive businessman.

Let's get this out the way early on. I distinctly got the impression from the book that Philip Green is a difficult man. You either love him or you hate him. I decided to read this book given the recent unfavourable press coverage of Mr Green following the collapse of BHS. I was interested to try to understand some of the allegations levelled at Sir Philip.

Without wanting to give too much away this book really gives an insight into the background of the man and there is certainly some foreshadowing of recent events despite the book being published back in 2010. Sir Philip comes across as shrewd, an astute businessman and deal maker, but absolutely ruthless.

We can all admire Philip Green 

There is a hell of a lot that can be learned from Philip Green's life, things to admire and things to avoid. I admire his deal making abilities. Philip Green is probably one of the best deal makers in history. He has an uncanny ability to see value where others do not, buy the assets for a ridiculously low price and then subsequently extract the value piece by piece. 

He is often accused of not being a good businessman but being a good liquidator. This is a little unfair. He often holds his purchases for a while, and often boosts short term profitability by his close attention to detail and cost cutting measures.

He is also often accused of having a chequered past with a history of multiple business failures. Whilst this is true I believe that it makes him all the more impressive. He never seems to give up despite his failed attempts. He doesn't appear to have made much of his money until he reached his mid thirties. It was after this time that he was able to earn stupendous returns by taking on lots of debt and taking on a lot of risk that paid off. He is the fastest single lifetime multi-billionaire in the UK. He turned a few hundred thousand into billions in less than a couple of decades - that's impressive.

Some faults in Philip Green 

Despite finding it easy to admire the man the book does not shy away from highlighting his flaws. There are countless situations when Philip has a spat with someone or else ostentatiously flaunts his wealth and success. He clearly has a temper and doesn't like things not going his way nor having someone else steel the limelight. These aren't likeable traits and can sometimes result in the impression that he is greedy, for example his blatant tax avoidance. On the other hand he does share success with his loyal friends and employees often rewarding generously in pay packages and bonuses.

Philip Green overall

I think the book is extremely good at laying out the details of Mr Green life up until 2010. However, the authors take great care to lay out all of the details good and bad allowing the reader to decide for themselves.

Personally, what I took from the book was that Philip is a complex character, but who can provide ample opportunities for learning from his actions.

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