The Knightsbridge store is the latest in a steady rollout of Topshop boutiques in major markets around the globe, including a second New York location planned for somewhere in uptown Manhattan. Green has always been something of a social moth with celebrity friends—Joan Collins cut the ribbon at his first store opening in the Seventies—but his expansion of Topshop has raised his international profile considerably. He lunches with Louis B. Susman, the new U.S. ambassador to Britain; has become close with Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss (both of whom refer to him as Uncle Phil); and has also charmed Burberry chief executive Angela Ahrendts, who calls him “one of the greatest merchants in our industry today.” Among his closest high-profile chums are Cowell, with whom he recently teamed to form an entertainment company; Richard Caring, the owner of Soho House, Annabel’s, the Ivy and Le Caprice; Planet Hollywood founder Robert Earl; and Lucian Grainge, who will take over as CEO of Universal Music next January.
At his polished Arcadia offices near Oxford Street, Green reflects on his career, which began when he was a teenager underachieving academically at a Jewish boarding school in Oxfordshire. In his free time, he helped his widowed mother, Alma, now 92, with her various businesses, including garages, car showrooms and gas stations. “I’m into things where I think I can add value, teach people, show them what I’ve learned,” he says. “I don’t want to be an absent landlord—that’s not my style.” He’s clearly proud of what he has achieved: “I’ve bought and sold and owned nearly 5,000 shops in this country. I’ve got nothing to prove. Zero.”
According to Tina, her husband’s success over the past two decades has done little to change him. “He’s still the same bombastic fellow,” she says. “He doesn’t shout as much as he used to, but he still wakes up every morning with a sense of purpose and is always 10 steps ahead of everyone else.”
Green is also known to be free with his checkbook, offering a $500,000 reward for the return of Madeleine McCann, the child who went missing in Portugal in 2007; splashing out about $465,000 for new beds at London’s Royal Marsden cancer hospital, after Tina’s mother died there; and paying more than $150,000 for an Alexander McQueen dress at Naomi
Campbell’s Fashion for Relief charity event earlier this year. And he’s a major donor to cancer charities, but the family prefers to do most of their giving under the radar.
In the UK, Green makes headlines mostly for his business ventures—and for the legendary parties that he and Tina frequently host. Last October they threw a Twenties-theme 50th-birthday bash for Cowell at Wrotham Park, a stately home north of London. “The day before the party, [Philip and Tina] came to see me, and while I was having a massage, I could hear them arguing about the table plans in the other room,” says Cowell. “They love each other; they respect each other; and they enjoy what they’ve achieved. They like everyone to have a good time.” In 2002 the couple reportedly laid out $7.5 million to fly friends to Cyprus for a three-day 50th-birthday celebration for Green that culminated in a toga party at which Rod Stewart performed. And in 2005 they reportedly spent $7 million on Brandon’s bar mitzvah, another three-day affair, in the South of France. Brandon marked his coming-of-age with a traditional ceremony in a custom-built temporary synagogue overlooking the Mediterranean, and Beyoncé and Andrea Bocelli performed during the celebration. “All my friends will tell you they’ve enjoyed the money with me,” Green says cheerfully. “I’m happy to do parties and have fun, and money enables you to do things when you want to do them.” Despite the current economic climate, the Greens plan to keep on partying: “2012 is coming up, which will be my daughter’s 21st birthday—and PG60!,” referring to his 60th.