Wilko creditors face vast losses after collapse of family-owned retailer

Business

Unsecured creditors in Wilko face recovering as little as 4p in the pound of the money they are owed, according to the first estimate published by the collapsed retailer’s administrator.

Sky News has learnt that PricewaterhouseCoopers’ proposals, circulated on Thursday evening, informed unsecured creditors in Wilko Limited, the main trading company, that they were likely to see recoveries of between 4% and 8% of their debts.

The Pension Protection Fund (PPF), the industry-funded lifeboat, is expected to be repaid in full the £20m it is owed as a secured creditor, according to the PwC document, although it is also owed millions of pounds more as an unsecured creditor.

Two other major creditors, Barclays and Hilco UK, are also expected to be repaid in full the £2.4m and £39.9m they are owed respectively.

The proposals – a statutory document filed by insolvency practitioners – provide a detailed timeline of the events leading up to Wilko’s collapse into administration last month.

Originally established by the Wilkinson family in 1930, the chain sold homeware and garden furniture at discounted prices.

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

In the months before its collapse, it had been seeking to finalise a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) – a mechanism that would have triggered steep rent cuts at hundreds of stores but avoided any closures.

The final stores are due to close next month, more than 90 years after the chain was born on Britain’s high streets.

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What happened to Wilko?

The family which controlled the company, and who had extracted millions of pounds from the business through dividend payments, are now facing calls to hand back some of the money.

According to the PwC proposals, a copy of which has been seen by Sky News, the most recent shareholder payout, amounting to £750,000, was made in February last year.

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Between January 2019 and February 2022, the family received £9m in dividends.

Following PwC’s appointment as administrator, a series of increasingly frantic talks about a rescue bid led by the HMV owner Doug Putman took place but eventually fell apart just over two weeks ago.

Although more than 120 Wilko stores – just over a quarter of its estate – were sold to discount retailing rivals, as many as 12,000 high street and head office jobs are ultimately expected to be lost.

Roughly 70 stores were sold to the owner of Poundland, with a further 51 Wilko sites sold to B&M European Value Retail.

Those deals did not, however, protect the jobs at those stores.

The Range, another value retailer, bought Wilko’s brand and online assets.

PwC declined to comment.

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