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Top Man: How Philip Green Built His High Street Empire [Paperback]

Stewart Lansley , Andy Forrester
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
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Book Description

8 Sep 2006
Philip Green, owner of, amongst much else, British Home Stores, reached billionaire status faster than anyone else in British history. Today he is worth GBP 3.6 billion and is reckoned to be the country's fourth richest citizen. This is the first biography of a man whose aggressive business tactics and brash lifestyle have transformed the staid image of British retailing, and who is likely to remain in the headlines for as long as his ultimate prize, Marks and Spencer, continues to elude his grasp. A middle-class Jewish boy from North London who left school at fifteen, Green started and failed with four businesses before he made it with his fifth venture, Jean Jeannie, which he sold to Lee Cooper for an enormous profit that set him on the road to fame and fortune. But there were pitfalls on the way; in particular, his involvement with Amber Day, a public company, left him with an abiding dislike for both the City establishment and outside investors. Ever since, he has relied upon a close group of like-minded entrepreneurs, including Tom Hunter the sports shoe millionaire and the Barclay twins, to help fund his buccaneering forays into Britain's High Streets. The authors describe Green's takeover and highly profitable break up of the Sears empire created by one of his business heroes, Charles Clore, and his first audacious attempt to seize control of Marks and Spencer at the end of 1999. Frustrated, in part by what were widely perceived as unfair tactics on the part of M&S, Green then turned his attention to the ailing BHS, for which he paid a mere GBP 200 million and then transformed its fortunes to such an extent that, in 2004, he was able to transfer dividends totalling GBP 400 million to his Monaco tax haven. His appetite unsated, Green then turned his attention to the Arcadia Group, which included brands such as Miss Selfridge, Top Shop and Dorothy Perkins before making another bid for M&S in 2004. Again he was foiled, partly because of what he saw as treachery on the part of his former protege Stuart Rose, the man who was appointed by M&S to see off Green's bid. But there seems little doubt that, given the opportunity, he will be back and that this time the personal grudge between the two men will give the contest an added bitterness.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Aurum Press Ltd (8 Sep 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1845131681
  • ISBN-13: 978-1845131685
  • Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 19.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 64,668 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"'Philip Green was aggressive, flash and cocky. He was very unpopular.' Former schoolmate 'Philip is without doubt the best dealer retail has seen. But no one in management gets on with him for long.' Business colleague 'M&S have yet to meet their judgement day.' Philip Green, on withdrawing his second bid to take over Marks and Spencer 'I just thought you should know that I tore your f**king article out and put it under the cat's arse where it belongs.' Philip Green to a journalist"

About the Author

Andy Forester is a journalist and television producer who has specialised in making business stories accessible to a general audience. His most recent book, The Man Who Saw the Future, is a biography of William Paterson the founder of the Bank of England. Stewart Lansley, formerly an academic economist, is currently an executive producer in the Current Affairs Department of the BBC. His TV and radio work has been nominated for both EMMY and Sony awards and he has written six books, including Poor Britain and After the Gold Rush.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
An intresting read but then Green is an intresting character an intresting flawed a character but non the less a major flair player in British power games.

This bio starts as you'd expect with Green's early life. Despite his barrow boy persona readers who know little about his formative years will be surprised to learn of his upper middle class background and his Mother being a catalyst in his first Business venture. The bio ends during the time he launched his audacious bid for control of M&S. There are not too many pages and with a colourful, maverick character as a subject it is a page turner which is accessible to a reader who has no experience of Business. The style is lean and to the point and the writer is fair to his subject although Green is ultimately a somewhat elusive figure in comparison to a more public figure such as Alan Sugar. Despite his sharp piercing wit he gives little a way the writer manages to build up a clear picture of Green and the world he inhibits, in addition laying bare the facts that this country's political system is wrongly in awe of Green and his Business elite.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You will love the book but not the man! 27 Nov 2010
Well written, well researched and very honest. Mr Green does come across as a ruthless man which is not so suprising. But he appears to have been ruthless from a very early age.
Some early detail is missing, he seems to go from no cash to lots of cash to bankrupt to a millionaire within a few pages and I find those bits more interesting than some of the other more flash bits.
I enjoyed this book, my wife enjoyed it and it is going to be passed on to friends an I believe they will love it.
I would recomend this book as a great read but by the end you might think that Mr Green is more than just a party loving guy who sells cheap dresses to teenagers. Wow, pray he does not come after your business!
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Business Icon's Candid Biography 21 Dec 2005
By Rolf Dobelli TOP 500 REVIEWER
Authors Stewart Lansley and Andy Forrester do a good job of crafting the story of Philip Green, who bullied, connived, intimidated, schemed, blustered and outworked his way to the top of the heap in British retailing. The son of "business-obsessed" parents, Green learned the value of driving a hard bargain early in life. He specialized in buying goods at distressed prices so that later he could appear gracious when he sold them for a low price and put a tidy profit in his pocket. As the authors deftly portray, Green was a master of retail haggling. In fact, one disappointment is that the book doesn't deviate from its "business-icon biography" mode to delve more deeply into the attitudes and techniques that made Green a killer dealmaker. Guile, intimidation and ruthlessness no doubt played major roles. The authors do a thorough, creditable job of telling the inside story of how Green clawed his way to his current rank as Britain's fifth richest person. At times, however, they focus too much on internal political intricacies that may not interest most readers. That said, we recommend this interesting portrait of a retail tycoon whose whims still affect the daily lives of tens of thousands of Brits.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Top Man - Top Dog!! 25 May 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I found it hard to put the book down. This was a great insight into the world and antics of Phil Green and his business antics. A great read.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Rather boring 12 Dec 2009
I thought I would give this book a go and at times, I did get into it. Other times it was laborious and hard work. I wanted to learn from this book and Philip Green but I didn't. There is incredible detail which is unnecessary and by the time I was about 1/3 of the way through the book, I could already see a pattern of how things would develop and I was right. 2/3 of the way through I put the book down and filed it in my bookcase.

I wanted to learn from the master but the information just didn't come through...
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great book 23 Mar 2013
By A Smith
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Well worth a read for anyone considering going into business or for anyone who needs a little inspiration. Great value too.
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4.0 out of 5 stars From Rag Trade to Riches 28 Jan 2013
This informative and very competent biography of Philip Green was published in 2005 by Lansley and Forrester, who are both business journalists. By 2005 Philip Green had made two unsuccessful attempts at taking over Marks and Spencer. He dominated the High Street by the purchase of Bhs and Arcadia (Top Shop, Burton, Evans, Dorothy Perkins, Wallis and Miss Selfridge), and had converted both from publicly quoted companies to private ones, registered off-shore.

Despite his aggressive manner in business and his infamous use of foul language Philip Green is no East End barrow boy made good but the son of entrepreneurial parents in North London. His formidable mother has been credited with introducing launderettes and self-service petrol stations into the country. Leaving his expensive boarding school with no academic qualifications he spent many years in the shoe and rag trade, not always successfully.

When success came he allowed himself to be bought out by a publicly quoted company. His management style did not change and he treated the public company as a private one. This was unacceptable behaviour and it all ended in tears. From then on he avoided taking any company public.

He has formidable focus on detail, particularly on costs. He often starts at the price-point at which his customers are willing to buy and works backwards up the supply chain whilst retaining quality and style. His early expertise gained importing from Hong Kong has served him well and with high volumes he is able to go into the global manufacturing market place and order direct, cutting out the wholesalers. He is also good at management by walking about and does not live in managerial isolation.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars I chucked it in the bin before finishing
I was put off immediately when the book states that Philip Green didn't contribute to the writing of the book and his key people also didn't contribute.
Published 15 months ago by WeddingBox Italy
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing
This book is the best read I have ever come across in my life , PG simply has the gift. With myself being a supplier to Bhs it with our 'Hug Rug' brand _____ it makes it more... Read more
Published 15 months ago by MR A MOSLEY
4.0 out of 5 stars A deep insight into such a talented man
I have read this book several times. It gives an intelligent insight into such a talented man, who is probably the greatest retailer of his generation. Read more
Published 24 months ago by Matthew
3.0 out of 5 stars whitty, interesting but...
but this book isn't written by philip green - it's all hear say and 'stories'. saying that i am probably being quite harsh, as the book does describe philip green as total... Read more
Published on 14 Sep 2011 by Gcrikey
5.0 out of 5 stars Business Biography
* MUST READ * this a very useful book for any doing business studies or business orientated courses
Published on 9 Nov 2010 by Mohamed
2.0 out of 5 stars Hard to get into..
I find this book focuses too much on wealth, how much Philip Green has and his lifestyle. I was hoping for an inspirational book, that I found with Richard Branson's book. Read more
Published on 2 May 2010 by Bel
4.0 out of 5 stars Underrated
An underrated little book that for me was unputdownable!

The starkest insight this book offers is not IMO the ruthless ambition or aggression that Phillip Green so... Read more
Published on 9 Jan 2010 by Jeffrey Archer
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing!
The aggressive business tactics and brash lifestyle of this man is actually an inspiration. It shows that you have to get out there and do it if you want to achieve it! Read more
Published on 30 Dec 2009 by Mr. S. Cartier
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