LONDON — A British businessman known as the King of Retail Fashion and dogged by claims of sexual harassment and racist abuse has been charged in the United States with four counts of misdemeanor assault after a fitness instructor in Arizona accused him of unwanted groping and sexually inappropriate behavior.
The woman, Katie Surridge, 37, who teaches Pilates at a luxury resort in Tucson, told the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph that the retailer, Sir Philip Green, whose company, Arcadia Group, is behind such major brands as Top Shop, touched her repeatedly and made sexual comments on several occasions between 2016 and 2018.
She said his behavior made her feel “almost like a prostitute.”
A hearing in the case was scheduled for June 19, but Mr. Green was not planning to attend, according to an emailed statement from Arcadia, which said that he strongly denied the allegations.
In Britain, Mr. Green, 67, carved out a reputation as a gregarious social force who was often photographed in the company of models, movie stars and musicians like Beyoncé. But then five former employees accused him of systemic sexual harassment and racist abuse, revelations that turned into one of the biggest #MeToo scandals in the country, prompting a debate over press freedom, the right to privacy and the validity of nondisclosure agreements.
Mr. Green had sought to silence the accusations using nondisclosure agreements, but they came to light last year despite a court injunction to block publication of a monthslong investigation by The Daily Telegraph. Mr. Green abandoned his legal battle against the paper in February.
The battle led many to question the use of nondisclosure agreements in cases of sexual misconduct. Prime Minister Theresa May said she was considering banning the practice. Amid the controversy, Beyoncé ended a venture with Mr. Green by buying him out of Ivy Park, the gymwear label they founded, according to the BBC.
Accusations of misconduct are not the only threats to Mr. Green’s reign at the top of Britain’s retail industry. Amid reports of increasing troubles for the country’s leading fashion brands, including slipping profits and shuttered stores, Mr. Green announced the closing of 23 of 566 stores in Britain and Ireland and all 11 Topshop and Topman stores in the United States because of declining sales.
Arcadia’s troubles appeared unrelated to the accusations against Mr. Green. Many observers blamed a difficult business environment in which many of Britain’s oldest brands have been shutting stores. Mr. Green’s brands also appeared slow to catch up to the move to online retail and were losing the battle against discount brands that offered similar fare for a small fraction of the price.
The accusations in Arizona added to Mr. Green’s personal woes. Ms. Surridge told The Telegraph, “I felt very taken advantage of and like, you know, just a piece of meat there at his disposal.”
She said Mr. Green’s comments felt “completely sexual in nature” and they included noises and remarks like “Oh, you naughty girl.”
In one episode, Ms. Surridge said, she was cleaning up her studio when Mr. Green walked in and slapped her behind several times. Later, she said, he asked for a private class saying, “I need you to stretch me.”
Another witness, Kimberly Khoury, said Mr. Green had approached Ms. Surridge with “octopus-like hands.”
“It was pretty clear that to me that she wasn’t welcoming the behavior,” Ms. Khoury told the police, according to The Daily Telegraph.
Mr. Green is facing four charges, each of which carries a potential sentence of up to 30 days in jail and a fine of up to $500 on conviction, the Pima County Attorney’s office said in a statement.
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