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Top Man

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Top Man

How Philip Green Built His High Street Empire

Aurum Press,

15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

British retail giant Philip Green made billions, but has he also earned respect among the moguls and the fashionistas?

Editorial Rating



  • Innovative
  • Eye Opening
  • Background


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, recommends this interesting portrait of a retail tycoon whose whims still affect the daily lives of tens of thousands of Brits.


The Early Years

British billionaire Philip Green was born in 1952 on the Ides of March, the only son of Simon and Alma Green. His parents lived in Croydon, a district south of London that suffered heavy damage during World War II and was rebuilt in a lack-luster, post-war style. Simon repaired and rented out TV sets and radios. Alma opened Croydon’s first coin-operated laundry and started one of the area’s first self-service gas stations. Philip Green later remembered his parents as "business obsessed."

Despite Philip’s rough, chain-smoking manner and the harsh language he adopted later in life, he was the product of an enterprising middle-class, Jewish, British family. When he was nine, he was sent to Carmel College, an expensive, strict boarding school. Though this was one of the unhappiest experiences of his life, Green later credited it with making him self-reliant. During his school years he already knew that he wanted to make money in business. His first job was working in a shoe warehouse, where he learned the art of buying goods wholesale and marking them up to make a handsome profit - while still keeping the customers happy.

Green left school in 1968...

About the Authors

Stewart Lansley is a former economist and a current television and radio journalist. He is an award-winning BBC executive producer and the author of Poor Britain and After the Gold Rush. Andy Forrester is a television producer and the author of The Man Who Saw the Future, the story of William Paterson, the Scotsman who founded the Bank of England.

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