Wilko appoints chief executive with wide restructuring experience

Wilko appoints chief executive with wide restructuring experience

UK retail chain Wilko has appointed a new chief executive with extensive restructuring experience as talks continue over a refinancing to secure its future.

The family-run group said Mark Jackson will join the company as chief executive-designate. He is currently Managing Director of Bensons for Beds, a furniture retailer that was acquired by private equity firm Alteri in 2020.

The company is now profitable again after an administrative filing last year that saw Alteri keep Bensons but shut down sister company Harveys.

Jackson was previously chief financial officer for the UK arm of Steinhoff International, the South African conglomerate on the brink of collapse after accounting fraud was exposed in 2017.

Wilko’s current chief executive, Jerome Saint-Marc, will step down, effective immediately. He has led the company since February 2020, having previously been Group Transformation Director. Wilko has faced criticism for the company’s self-isolation policy during the pandemic.

Lisa Wilkinson, the family representative on the board of Wilko’s holding company, said the company’s founders “would expect us to make the right and sometimes difficult changes to restore confidence and secure the future of the company.”

“This also includes ensuring that we have the right leadership with the right experience and relevant turnaround know-how.”

Jackson’s appointment comes as Wilko seeks to secure its future by establishing new credit facilities rather than relying on supplier financing and short-term overdrafts.

The company’s most recent financial statements were accompanied by a “going concern” warning, saying it faces a risk of running out of cash by the end of 2023 if trading conditions continue to deteriorate and access to credit is not secured .

Nottinghamshire-based Wilko, whose sales mix is ​​centered on housewares, gardening and DIY products, said it considered the scenario unlikely and had £63million in cash in November but had started talks with lenders.

Given the low margins and tough economic environment, banks are less enthusiastic about lending to retailers. Reduced commercial credit insurance – which protects suppliers against defaults by their customers – has also made it harder for less well-capitalized retailers to rely on supplier credit.

The gap has been filled by specialist lenders charging higher interest rates. Bantry Bay recently agreed a £60m facility with Matalan, another value retailer, in exchange for a “super senior” rating in the company’s capital structure, and clothing brand Superdry is also in talks such a facility.

Made.com, a furniture retailer that relied heavily on supplier credit rather than bank loans, collapsed in November after failing to secure fresh financial support.

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