At the time, this monster cash extraction (done with freshly borrowed money) was more than three times Arcadia's operating profits, but I'm sure the banks that (expensively) approved the loans didn't care. And it was legal.
However, if, in the economic downturn, turnover and profits are savaged, and tangible assets decline sharply in value, and Arcadia becomes very weak, or even goes bust, what will Peston say then? Arcadia Group employs 27,000 people; was it really OK, other than in a strictly legal sense, to put such a heavy yoke around its neck? Had the dividend not been paid - and especially, not been funded by humungous bank loans - what more might the group have achieved? The consolidated balance sheet for 31 August 2008 is here; what will the 2009 one look like?
What are the implications for our so-called democracy when captains of industry become so gigantic, and the rest of us become relatively as insignificant as crablice?
11 years later, we can ask whether Arcadia would have been more resilient (1), and in due course Mr Green and hs wife much richer (2), if instead of financial extraction there had been reinvestment, expansion and diversification.
(1) 'The group’s brands had been suffering from years of underinvestment before the Covid pandemic and had failed to keep up with the switch to online selling and digital marketing': https://www.theguardian.com/business/2020/nov/30/philip-green-arcadia-group-collapses-into-administration