The HMV mogul’s latest attempt to save Wilko
The billionaire behind HMV could save up to 4,000 jobs at retailer Wilko in a last-minute bailout attempt.
Doug Putman, 39, the owner of British CD seller and Canada’s largest toy business, Toys R Us, was in talks with managers last night to buy part of the business.
It has proposed keeping about 200 of its 400 stores and between 3,000 and 4,000 of its 12,000 employees.
The deal would also mean the survival of the Wilko brand. The trustees will work through the weekend to review a final offer from Putman to ensure the best outcome for creditors and staff.
The 93-year-old chain went into administration this month and PwC administrators have been looking closely at possible rescue offers.
Rescue offer: Doug Putman has proposed keeping about 200 of Wilko’s 400 stores and 3,000 to 4,000 of its 12,000 employees
They said on Wednesday there were no offers for the entire group, but insisted talks are continuing “with those interested in buying parts of the business.”
Although there was some speculation that a stock sale, which would see Wilko’s inventory sold at a deep discount, was the preferred outcome of those considering the offers, managers insisted that discussions with buyers continue.
A PwC spokesperson said: ‘Since our appointment, we have worked tirelessly to secure the sale of the business and discussions are continuing with various parties.
“As servicers, we intend to achieve the best outcome for everyone involved, while preserving as many jobs as possible and fulfilling our legal duty to act in the best interest of creditors as a whole.”
If Putman’s bid is rejected, some stores could still be sold to other bidders.
Potential buyers are believed to include B&M European Value Retail, Poundland, The Range and Home Bargains.
“This is a chapter in UK retail that everyone hopes has a happy ending, but the lack of news suggests that negotiations are difficult,” said Danni Hewson, head of financial analysis at AJ Bell.
Wilko was founded in 1930 as a hardware store in Leicester by James Kemsey Wilkinson, and was known as Wilkinson before becoming “Wilko” in the early 2010s.
Over the years, the family business expanded its range to include DIY products, garden supplies and general household items. But it has faced fierce competition from cut-price competitors and online rivals like Amazon.
He struggled through lockdowns to get out of the pandemic, only to be hit with runaway inflation.
Wilko’s collapse marks another dark day for the High Street following the near demise of McColl’s kiosk last year before being rescued by Morrisons.
In recent years, Britain’s high streets have lost popular names like Debenhams, the Arcadia group that owns Topshop and Mothercare.