Wilko owners explore sale in race to salvage chain

The family behind the value retail giant Wilko is exploring a change of ownership for the first time in a bid to salvage the chain’s future.

Sky News has learnt that advisers to Wilko have begun sounding out potential buyers of the business in the last few days.

Retail industry sources said a number of large general merchandise chains had been approached about recapitalising the business in a deal that could see the Wilkinson family relinquish majority control.

The development comes weeks after PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), which is advising Wilko, started discussions with prospective financial investors about raising new equity to fund the business through a complex restructuring process.

Wilko employs about 12,000 people and trades from 400 stores – making it one of the biggest privately owned retailers in Britain.

People close to the situation said the business needed to source sufficient additional capital in the next month in order to allay concerns about its future.

In a statement issued to Sky News, Mark Jackson, Wilko chief executive, said: “We’ve been very open that we’re exploring all the options available to rebound as a business and maximise the significant opportunities that we know exist.

“We have a clear and defined turnaround plan put together by a refreshed and experienced management team to re-establish a profitable Wilko that delivers significant return, accelerated by the investment needed.

“We are actively out across the UK and international markets continuing external conversations and welcoming new approaches to recapitalise the business through a combination of refinancing options of debt and equity release to provide a stable platform to activate the next phase of the recovery.”

Wilko was founded in 1930, when JK Wilkinson opened his first store in Leicester.

Like many high street retailers, it has been hit by inflationary pressures and supply chain challenges.

In recent months, it has been seeking to finalise a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) – a mechanism that would trigger steep rent cuts at hundreds of stores.

Under the CVA proposals pitched to creditors, no store closures would take place.

However, the launch of a CVA has begun to look increasingly unlikely as Wilko seeks new funding.

One landlord told Sky News earlier this month that if it was unable to secure new funding, the company was likely to face administration.

Wilko previously secured a £40m loan from Hilco UK, the specialist retail investor and lender which owns Homebase.

Sky News revealed last month that the retailer had drafted in property advisers from CBRE ahead of crunch talks with landlords about slashing rents across its store estate.

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