Sir Philip Green has been charged with four counts of misdemeanour assault in the US after a pilates instructor alleged he repeatedly touched her inappropriately, Arizona authorities have said.
Lauren Deakin, a deputy county attorney in Pima county, said Green had been formally charged with four counts of “knowingly touching another person with the intent to injure, insult or provoke”.
Green’s alleged victim told police the Arcadia boss had spanked and grabbed her backside in 2016 and 2018 at a luxury resort in Tucson. In a copy of the police interview, obtained by the Press Association, Katie Surridge said that the “creepy old man” had “vigorously” slapped her bottom up to 10 times in January 2016.
The case will return to court in Tucson on 19 June, according to court filings.
“These are class three misdemeanours. Each count has a potential sentence of up to 30 days in the Pima county jail, a fine of not more than $500, and up to one year of probation,” deputy county attorney Deakin said.
Surridge told police she was worried about frustrating a “high roller” at the resort following the 2016 incident, but decided to speak to management who said they spoke to Green and reassured her it would not happen again.
But Surridge told police that Green assaulted her a second time in January 2018.
“This time, instead of slapping my butt, he puts his hands, like, he wraps his hands around my waist and then grabs my butt cheek and just puts his hand there and just holds it there as he’s hugging me,” she said.
He went on to make uncomfortable comments and pat her exposed stomach as she demonstrated an exercise, Surridge alleged.
“And then the session ended and I immediately went upstairs to [management’s] office and I was in tears and I said: ‘He was told never to touch me again and here he is touching me again’,” Surridge told police.
The Daily Telegraph first reported that Green was being investigated by police in February. Surridge told the newspaper she had felt “just a piece of meat there at his disposal”.
“It feels completely sexual in nature. And the way – the noises, and the ‘Oh, you naughty girl’. Like – ugh – I can hear him saying it right now.”
Green denied the claims through a statement via his company Arcadia.
“Sir Philip strenuously denies these allegations and is disappointed that the charges have been filed in his absence and they are minor categories of misdemeanor in the United States,” the statement said. “Sir Philip is not personally required to attend before the court at the forthcoming hearing and will be represented by his lawyer. Contrary to previous suggestions in the media there is no allegation of any sexual assault or misconduct made by the prosecution.”
Surridge’s account was supported, however, by a homeowner at the Canyon Ranch luxury resort, who told police she had witnessed the assault.
“I see his hand go reach out and, like, pat her buttocks,” Kimberly Khoury said, referring to Green. “And then pat it again and like, grab her buttocks. And then she kind of moved, like, startled a little bit. And took like a step away. And then he removed his hand and brought it back.
“I can’t tell you what we talked about because I was so focused on what was happening with his … uh, his octopus-like hand.”
They continued talking before he grabbed Surridge’s bottom again, Khoury alleged.
“And like, slaps, you know, spanks it, whatever, so like, taps it. And then grabs again and this happened in the course of like a minute and a half, or two minutes. He did that three or four times. It was pretty clear that, to me, that she wasn’t welcoming the behavior.”
This month, the House of Lords heard that Green had been the subject of hundreds of grievance cases. Peter Hain, a former Labour cabinet minister under Tony Blair, said in the House of Lords. Exercising parliamentary privilege, he said had heard “horrible” claims of repeated sexual assaults by Green.
Hain said one alleged victim of Green had “pleaded” with him to name the retail tycoon.
“I quote: ‘He was touching and repeatedly slapping women staff’s bottoms, grabbing thighs and touching legs. Hundreds of grievance cases were raised with HR [human resources]. The company lawyer who interviewed me then lied. Sir Philip screamed and shouted at staff to go to psychologists,’” Hain said.
Green has denied the allegations that Hain spoke of.
Green, 67, was knighted in 2006 for “services to the retail industry”, but his Arcadia fashion empire is ailing amid plummeting profits at its fashion chains, which include Topshop, Burton, Dorothy Perkins, Miss Selfridge, Wallis, Evans and Outfit.
Arcadia could collapse next week if Green cannot persuade his shops’ landlords and the UK pension regulator to back a rescue deal that involves slashing his rent bills and closing about 50 stores.
The man once dubbed “the king of the high street” is attempting to do a deal with the group’s creditors and has said that if they do not agree to his rescue plan it is “highly likely, either immediately or after a short time period, to enter into insolvent administration or liquidation”.
The creditors will vote next Wednesday, 5 June, on whether to accept the deal. Green wants some shop owners to take a 70% cut in their rents, and some local authorities to cut their business rates to help him stay in business.
Arcadia has 570 shops and 18,000 employees and its pension scheme has a deficit of up to £750m.
When Green unveiled his rescue plan it included £360m of funding for the pension scheme, paid over three years. But the UK pension regulator said it was not enough and wants Green and his wife Tina to pump in another £50m to secure its backing. The regulator has legal powers to force Arcadia and Green to ensure its pension is properly funded.
The latest battle with the pension regulator comes just over two years after Green agreed to put £363m into the pension scheme of BHS, the department store group which collapsed about a year after he sold it for £1 to a former bankrupt.
Since then, Green’s Arcadia empire has struggled to compete against fast-growing online specialists such as Boohoo and Asos as well as cheaper rival Primark.
Contacted by the Guardian when the details of the assault charges were released, Green refused to comment.
When the allegations were first revealed, a spokesman for the retailer said: “All this was investigated by Canyon Ranch at the time. Nothing was found against Sir Philip and the matter was dropped. In terms of the allegation, it did not happen. Sir Philip has visited the ranch since that time and has no issues with the management or any of the people there.”
Agencies contributed to this report