Wilko- Devastated

Posted on Nov 30, 2023. by NTI

Earlier this week (Tuesday 28th November) former Wilko chair, Lisa Wilkinson, and former CEO, Mark Jackson, appeared before the Business & Trade Commons Select committee. Wilkinson and Jackson attended Parliament to give oral evidence concerning the collapse of Wilko and explain the circa £50m pension fund shortfall.

Under scrutiny from the Parliamentary committee, Lisa Wilkinson, granddaughter of Wilko’s founder denied that “greed” contributed to Wilko’s insolvency, subsequent Administration and £625m debt. Instead the former chair told MPs that “Wilko failed because we ran out of cash. That caused the downfall in the end”. Wilkinson said she regretted not taking action earlier to bring in new management and deal with poor product ranges.

During a tense exchange MPs claimed that Wilkinson was seeking to shift the blame away from management by relying on a variety of internal and external “contributory factors”.

“I don’t know how to put into words how sad I am that we have let down all our customers, all our team members, our suppliers, our advisers genuinely,” Wilkinson said. "I don’t know what you want me to say,” she added.

"Sorry was the one word I was looking for,” was the response from the committee chair Liam Byrne.

“You can have the word sorry – of course I’m sorry, if you wish me to say the word sorry. I thought ‘devastated’ covered it. I apologise, I wasn’t trying to be clever,” Wilkinson said.

Significant Mistakes

In 2021 Wilko had £100m in cash but in 2022 moved from an unused revolving credit facility arrangement to a more secured debt position agreement with Australian lender Macquarie. During its negotiation with Macquarie, the Mini-Budget was announced by Liz Truss and then chancellor, Kwasi Kwarteng.

“We were about to enter into secured lending arrangements with Macquarie when the 2022 mini-Budget happened,” she said. “Literally we were in the midst of that, and at that point the interest terms on that loan were hiked massively and that became unfeasible.”

Wilkinson looked to blame declining high streets, deserting creditors, the cost of business rates, Covid-19 and the mini budget for Wilko’s struggles.

Committee chair, Byrne, found that Wilkinson had admitted to “significant management mistakes” including losing £40m on foreign exchange deals and an investment of £60m on a failed warehouse modernisation plan.

The committee also heard how £15m of dividends paid to shareholders were wrapped up in a family holding trust difficult to access and not enough to rescue the company or help cut the pension deficit.


At the hearing on Tuesday HMW owner, Doug Putman claimed that his attempt to help Wilko failed because of “super inflexible” landlords and IT suppliers. “…everyone just got a little bit greedy” said the billionaire Canadian businessman ahead of the hearing on Tuesday morning.   

“Didn’t do their job”

The committee also heard from Atul Shah, a professor of accounting at City, University of London, who said that Wilko’s auditors, Ernst & Young (EY) “didn’t do their job” in that they were not clear on the financial distress of Wilko. Mr Shah suggested that EY waited 6 months, until the sale of a warehouse, before signing off the group accounts so as to allow the company to be declared a going concern. Victoria Venning, a Partner at EY responded by stating that they had clearly flagged the “material uncertainty” and that director’s assumptions had been strongly challenged by the firm of auditors.

Standing by their assessment of Wilko’s financial statements, Venning told the committee, “It’s not our role as auditor to offer advice to a company”. “Our role is to assess the status and position of the business and come up with an independent view that the accounts are true and fair.”


Evidence was also heard by Nadine Houghton, National Officer at GMB who represent thousands of Wilko workers. Houghton claimed that a “lack of leadership and ability to adapt to changing markets” caused the loss of over 12,000 jobs.

Despite her claims no evidence of director misconduct has thus been found by the Pension Regulator according to Kevin Hollinrake the minister for enterprise, markets and small business who was also gave evidence at the hearing.

In other Wilko news it has been reported that nearly 10,000 workers have been paid £42m by the Redundancy Payment Service and that stores in Plymouth and Exeter are set to reopen.  Neil was spotted walking around the NTI newsroom beaming with joy having just read the recent Wilko Facebook post “You didn't think we'd re-open without Pick & Mix, did you?”

« Back to articles