Sir Philip Green sold British Home Stores to avoid liability for the pension scheme should the firm go bust, a regulator has said.
The Pension Regulator has published its report into the sale of the firm after concerns about the future of the pension scheme when the company collapsed last year.
The winding down of the high-street giant affected 11,000 jobs and around 19,000 pension holders.
Sir Philip, who is Jewish, owned BHS for 15 years before offloading it for £1 to former bankrupt Dominic Chappell in 2015, agreed to pay £363 million to settle the pension scheme of the collapsed retailer in February.
The report said: “We argued that the main purpose of the sale was to postpone BHS’ insolvency to prevent a liability to the schemes falling due while it was part of the Taveta group of companies ultimately owned by the Green family.”
A spokesman for Sir Philip told the Guardian: “This is the first and possibly the only time that a private individual, who has not been found to have done anything wrong, has voluntarily rescued a pension scheme. The matter is now closed.”
Speaking at the time the settlement was agreed, Sir Philip said it represented a “significantly better” outcome than if schemes entered the Pension Protection Fund (PPF), money set aside to protect people if their pension fund becomes insolvent.
He said: “I have made a voluntary contribution of up to £363 million to enable the trustees of the BHS pension schemes to achieve a significantly better outcome than the schemes entering the PPF, which was the goal from the outset.”
The fallout from the collapse of BHS sparked a lengthy parliamentary inquiry and left both its high-profile former owners potentially facing a criminal investigation.
But Sir Philip said the settlement brought “this matter to a conclusion” and apologised to the affected pensioners.
“Once again I would like to apologise to the BHS pensioners for this last year of uncertainty, which was clearly never the intention when the business was sold,” he said in February.
Nicola Parish, executive director of Frontline Regulation, said: “The report highlights the lessons we have learned from this case about how we can regulate more effectively.
“We are already acting more quickly to intervene where we consider schemes to be underfunded, or where there are indications that employers may be avoiding their responsibilities.