Image: Financial Times Image: Financial Times

Sir Philip Green says that England is a place 'where you get a lot of jealousy'. Is that the problem? Is he merely a victim of knockers? Or does the unhappy saga of Sir Philip and BHS demonstrate how there is something broken in the relationship between business and the public?

Not so long ago Sir Philip Green was a hero, feted by governments across the world, he was the embodiment of British entrepreneurial flair. Now he finds himself in the full glare of the media's spotlight, who look beneath every stone, and indeed every wave, searching for fault.

The Daily Mail tells us in horror that Sir Philip went partying on board his yacht off Mykonos pouring Veuve Clicquot over fellow revellers including Lionel Ritchie just months after he sold BHS for one pound.

In a way, it's an odd story. The party took place a year ago, not something that stands out when you first read the Mail piece. But according to the Mail, things get worse. It turns out that he has just got back from another holiday, this time, an eight-week tour of the Med, from his luxury yacht. (I hereby vow that if I ever become a billionaire, I will not take an eight-week cruise of the Med (mainly because my wife suffers from sea sickness) or douse people with vintage champagne – instead, to save money, I will use prosecco.)

It is not that Sir Philip is without fault, far from it. It is not that pensioners and future pensioners, who have apparently lost money over the debacle, don't have reason to be angry. For that matter, it is right that they question how it is that there can be an estimated pension deficit of £571 million and yet Sir Philip withdrew an estimated £423 million in dividends, and quite possibly a good deal more indirectly.

But it may be worth pausing, and asking how did Sir Philip do it? How did he become so successful?

He bought BHS in the year 2000 for around £200 million, most of this being in the form of debt. Thanks to cost cutting, partly achieved via the merger with Green's other big business Arcadia, Sir Philip got his money back. He got rich because he is a good deal maker. This was very much the story of his career, for example, back in 1985, quite brilliantly agreeing a deal to buy insolvent clothing company, Jean Jeannie, agreeing trade deals with warehouses in Hong Kong and then selling his option to buy Jean Jeannie to jeans company Lee Cooper for a neat profit.

But when Sir Philip received the BHS dividends he was known as the king of the high street. BHS was making good money, you may recall, this was around the time when he went close to buying Marks and Spencer, he was hailed by some as its white knight, the king of the high street, Sir Philip, proposing marriage to the queen of the high street, Marks and Spencer.

Things went wrong for BHS, just as they did across the high street. First off, there was the rise and rise of online retail, then there was the rise of budget retailers, none of this was predictable at the time when Sir Philip/his family received their dividends/other forms of revenue.

But there is a wider point. In a feature in Vanity Fair magazine, Sir Philip was quoted as saying: "England, unfortunately, is a place where you get a lot of jealous, envious people, you know negative people, that's how it is."

But things are different now. The Brexit vote illustrates how growing inequality is extracting a toll, after 2008, bankers were in the dock of the court of public opinion, this has now moved on to executive pay in general. Things are changing, and the reaction to Sir Philip is a sign of this.