£90m offer

Private equity firm makes bid to save Wilko chain

Wilko’s collapse puts 12,500 jobs at risk

Hopes have risen that the household products chain Wilko can be salvaged after a private equity firm made a £90 million bid for the collapsed retailer.

M2 Capital has put in an offer to administrators at PwC that could safeguard Wilko’s 12,500 workers across its 400-store estate for two years.

It follows interest from Doug Putman, the Canadian who saved HMV, who is keen to preserve 350 stores and pay off the company’s £40 million debt to Hilco, the restructuring specialist.

Andy Prendergast, the GMB union’s national secretary, said: “The devil is in the detail but any bid that guarantees jobs must be prioritised.

“Losing Wilko will not only put 12,500 out of work across the country, but would also be another nail in the coffin of the high street.

“PwC must recognise that creditors are not the only people with a stake on this — working people’s livelihoods must be the priority.”

Lisa Wilkinson, the granddaughter of the chain’s founder James Kemsey Wilkinson, stepped down as chairwoman this year and her family has been criticised for taking millions of pounds in dividends before its collapse.

She responded by saying Wilko’s management “worked really bloody hard” to keep the company afloat and that the collapse “wasn’t because anybody was sitting there twiddling their thumbs”.

In an interview with The Sunday Times, Wilkinson said: “Everybody has thrown everything and everything again at trying to make Wilko a success.

“When people are looking at how this happened, they want it to be a single big thing that was seismic, and it wasn’t. It’s a whole load of things that have just added up to a seismic thing over time and which means we have ended up in the place where we’ve ended up, which is a very sad place.”

Rival discount chains Poundland and B&M are also considering moves for parts of Wilko’s stores portfolio which would more likely mean cherry-picking those which are most viable.

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