How the sale of the failed Wilko turned into a farce
Rescue Hope: Doug Putman Received Strange Voicemails From Rival Bidder Robert Mantse
The farce surrounding Wilko has highlighted how bankrupt company sales can turn into a free-for-all between charlatans and opportunists.
Sources close to the sale process this weekend expressed their frustration that PwC, the administrators, have been forced to consider every offer, however implausible or unprofessional.
They say this has wasted precious time when the clock is ticking to save jobs.
It is also prolonging the agony for 12,000 employees, who fear they will be out of a job at one of Britain’s best-known High Street chains.
News last weekend that Anglo-Canadian private equity firm M2 Capital had submitted an £89m offer for the affected firm was a sign that all hope had not been lost. Staff had previously been told there were no bidders for the entire business and to expect imminent layoffs.
M2 Capital pledged to save all stores and jobs for at least two years, in addition to increasing staff pay by 3.5 percent.
But talks with the new suitor collapsed after administrators pressed for details about his financing, business plan and legal representation.
Emails between the private equity group’s chairman, Robert Mantse, and administrators seen by The Mail on Sunday underscore the depth of the chaos.
The administrators were faced with perplexing and bizarre exchanges, such as Mantse calling an insolvency expert a “dumb bunny.”
He opened one email with “Hello” and signed others with instructions for PwC staff to “be great” or with his Instagram username: “jimmy.bond.008”.
In another absurd twist, Mantse approached another suitor and asked to team up, after his own offer was turned down.
The Canadian billionaire behind HMV, Doug Putman, is now believed to be the favorite in talks, with a deal that would save hundreds of stores and thousands of jobs.
Sources close to the deal were hopeful of further developments earlier this week.
Mantse sent Putman an idiosyncratic voicemail via WhatsApp, heard by The Mail on Sunday, saying: “You’re cooler than me, I looked at your Instagram.” Much cooler.’ But he also added other comments, much less complimentary.
Robert Mantse was contacted for comment.