Oliver Shah is the winner of this year’s XCity Award for his investigations into Sir Philip Green’s £1 sale of BHS and the pensions scandal that followed.
The City editor at The Sunday Times beat 15 other nominees for the award and its £500 prize, which honours a former City student who has made an outstanding contribution to journalism in the past year.
Shah was the first to expose the murkiness surrounding Green’s sale of BHS, which saw the 65-year-old retail magnate hand the high-street chain over to Retail Acquisitions in 2015. The group was headed by formerly bankrupt Dominic Chappell, who had no real retail experience.
BHS eventually collapsed a year later, resulting in the loss of 11,000 jobs and a pension liability of £571m.
In an investigation that ran for over a year, Shah revealed the past of the BHS buyers, leading the way for national coverage of the saga, which resulted in a high-profile parliamentary investigation into the Arcadia group chairman.
Shah said: “When a company like BHS gets sold for £1, you naturally begin to wonder what’s going on and ask a few questions.
“What began as a business story soon became a real, front page news piece.”
Shah’s investigations soon attracted the wrath of Green, with the British businessman threatening Shah with both legal and physical retaliation.
In a particularly explosive exchange, chronicled in Shah’s “My battle with the bullying billionaire”, the tycoon threatened to throw The Sunday Times journalist “through the f*****g window”.
“I got used to all that stuff, really – I took it for granted. But for the rest of the public, his behaviour really helped tell the narrative.
Professor Suzanne Franks, head of the journalism department at City and member of the judging panel said: “We are delighted to see Oliver Shah win the XCity Award for 2017. In a highly competitive field, he stood out with his ground-breaking story on the Philip Green BHS sale and subsequent pension scandal.
“Oliver exemplified some of the key attributes that we encourage in all our students – determination and persistence, combined with intelligent writing.”
Shah added: “I think the story really took the fear away from Green in terms of news coverage. It opened the floodgates for the kind of aggression that Fleet Street should have been showing from the beginning.”
“It’s really great news to have won – and very kind of everyone. At City, you meet some great people and get to work in a really exciting environment. I treated it like a full-time job when I was there and had a great time doing it.”