HMV tycoon Doug Putman in last-ditch talks to rescue Wilko
The Canadian tycoon behind HMV was last night finalising a deal to buy the majority of Wilko, the collapsed British homewares retailer.
Administrators confirmed that Doug Putman, 39, whose family also owns Toys ‘R’ Us in Canada, had made an offer for 300 of Wilko’s 400 stores, which would secure between 8,000 and 9,000 jobs out of the 12,500 total.
PwC was consulting Wilko’s biggest creditors over the move, according to Sky News, and there was still some uncertainty around whether the deal would go ahead. The Big Four accounting group said yesterday that there were other parties interested in buying the retailer, including B&M, Home Bargains and Poundland, but that none of them wanted the whole group.
“While discussions continue with those interested in buying parts of the business, it is now clear that no viable offer structure put forward includes the group in its entirety,” PwC said. As such, it said 269 support centre staff would be made redundant and that further job losses at two distribution centres would be announced next week.
Administrators confirmed there had been no viable offers for Kin Limited, a subsidiary of the company. Kin has been forced to close, with 14 jobs lost.
Further redundancies are due at two distribution centres in Worksop, Nottinghamshire, and Newport, south Wales, next week.
Jane Steer, the joint administrator, said: “It’s with great sadness that we announce these redundancies. We’re incredibly grateful to these team members for the support and dedication they’ve shown to the company.”
The only potential bidder that said it would buy the entirety of the Wilko business missed a deadline to provide proof of funds set by PwC. Robert Mantse, the chairman of M2 Capital, claimed to have made a £90 million bid for Wilko’s 400 stores on behalf of an unnamed billionaire based in the United States.
Michael Flacks, who runs the investment firm Flacks Group from Miami, was reported by various media outlets as the man in financing discussions with M2 Capital. However, he claimed to have had no awareness of the situation, according to The Sun.
A Flacks Group spokesman said: “Contrary to some reports in the UK media yesterday, we are not in the running to buy the British retailer Wilko and never expressed any interest.”
The spokesman said Flacks Group, which specialises in acquiring distressed assets and turning round businesses in difficult situations, “foresees the business being wound down as part of the evolving retail landscape in the UK.”
Mantse said he had “presented an opportunity” to Putman about a joint deal for Wilko. In a WhatsApp message to Putman, seen by The Times, Mantse said: “We can join and save all the jobs.”
Wilko, which is family owned, was started by James Kemsey Wilkinson as a single hardware shop in Leicester in 1930. It grew into one of Britain’s biggest private companies and became the high street’s leading discounter after the collapse of Woolworths in 2009. The chain has lost market share to low-cost rivals.