The man who could save Wilko is a ‘C-grade student’ and an avid fisherman who ‘can’t help’ listening to Taylor Swift, MailOnline can reveal.
Doug Putman, the boss of HMV, is said to be edging to a deal that would save the majority of the stricken retailer – rescuing 300 stores and 9,000 jobs.
The 39-year-old is a scion of the family that owns Putman Investments, which in 2021 took over the bankrupt Toys R Us chain in Canada, with an estimated £830 million sales.
He then bought HMV in 2019, restoring the music giant to its former glory and bringing back profits, after some 5.5 million traditional LPs were sold in Britain during 2022, the most since 1990.
In an interview with the Mail On Sunday earlier this year, Mr Putman provided an insight into his own music tastes and hobbies.
Doug Putman’s proposal is thought to be the last chance for the stricken high street retailer
PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) have been trying to find a buyer for Wilko (pictured is the branch in Kensington today)
The store has entered an administration sale and is carrying signs warning: ‘Everything must go’
‘I like the classic stuff – nothing too crazy. Fleetwood Mac, Black Sabbath. But I also like Taylor Swift, I can’t help it!’ he said.
‘The guys that work for me they’re true music people. They’re always telling me what I should be listening to.
‘I see my family all the time. Other than that, I’m an avid fisherman and reader.’
Mr Putman, whose baby daughter arrived six weeks after he acquired HMV, says his life is ‘family-centric’.
He has lunch with his 70-year-old father most days – his ‘best friend and mentor’ – and his sister comes for dinner every Saturday when phones are placed ‘in a basket for four hours’.
His parents bought their first business after remortgaging their house for $50,000. He remembers when the family empire was turning over $3 million in sales. Two decades later, it’s into the billions.
He reflects: ‘I’m a very lucky person. I’m a normal guy. My dad was a steel worker. My mum is a bank teller. I was a ‘C’ student.’
Mr Putman added that he wished more high-flying business people would get involved in the political process instead of retiring to play golf – ‘it’s one of the saddest things I see’.
Now, the retail mogul is setting his sights on Wilko, with his proposal thought to be the last chance for the stricken high street giant, after hundreds of staff were told they will be made redundant on Monday following the collapse of a bid to save the chain.
But administrators PwC are now consulting with Wilko’s major creditors on the terms of an agreement with Mr Putman, Sky News reports.
The deal will look to secure 300 of its 400 stores, saving up to 9,000 jobs in its total workforce of 12,500.
A source said: ‘It’s still in the balance but it is beginning to look more positive that a deal can get done.’
PwC announced the first redundancies yesterday following reports that a £90million offer from private equity firm M2 Capital had failed.
The Anglo-Canadian firm had claimed it was raising money from US property tycoon Michael Flacks to rescue the retailer.
But Mr Flacks told The Sun he was not interested in buying the embattled retailer.
A source told the newspaper that M2 Capital’s bid had been too speculative to be taken seriously.
PwC said the first 283 jobs being made redundant would mainly be in support centre operations.
For warehouse staff, redundancies are due to start next week, the GMB trade union said.
GMB has said it remains hopeful that there is a ‘viable buyer on the table’ which could protect staff in stores and online, but that it must ‘continue to prepare for the worst’.
Mr Putman has lunch with his 70-year-old father most days – his ‘best friend and mentor’ – and his sister comes for dinner every Saturday when phones are placed ‘in a basket for four hours’
Empty shelves at the branch of the stricken retailer in Kensington this afternoon
Empty shelves at the Wilko store on High Street Kensington, west London, this week
Yesterday, one member of staff at a Wilko on Kensington High Street told MailOnline that ‘nobody’ had told him about the development.
Another said: ‘The whole thing has been really deflating to be honest and we haven’t had good communication.’
Jane Steer, joint administrator at PwC, 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, particularly over the last few very difficult weeks.’
Mr Putman’s firm, Sunrise Records, bought HMV in 2019 restoring it to its former glory, bringing back its profits.
The music retailer now boasts almost 120 shops and is planning to reopen its flagship on Oxford Street in the West End of London.
Wilko’s profits plummeted by £38.7 million last year as sales fell by 3.3 per cent to £1.2 billion, and with profits taking a blow from rising inflation.
Wilko founded in 1930 as a hardware shop in Leicester by James Kemsey Wilkinson, and was known as Wilkinson before becoming ‘Wilko’ in the early 2010s – grew to rule the British high street as the leading discount store.
Over the years the family-owned firm expanded its range to include DIY products, gardening wares and general home goods. But it has faced fierce competition from cut-price competitors and online rivals like Amazon.
It struggled in the face of lockdowns to emerge from the pandemic only to be battered by rampant inflation.
The GMB union has said it remains hopeful that there is a ‘viable buyer on the table’ which could protect staff in stores
After Lisa Wilkinson, the founder’s granddaughter, stood down as chairwoman in January this year – warning that the business could run out of cash – the retailer scrambled to prop up the business with a new chair and £40 of borrowed cash from the creditor Hilco.
Hilco has previously owned HMV before it went bust and was also involved in the closure of high-street department store, Debenhams
Ms Wilkinson was replaced by Chris Howell, the former chairman of Bensons for Beds.
The collapse of Wilko marks another dark day for the High Street following the near-disappearance of newsagent McColl’s last year before its rescue by Morrisons.
In recent years, Britain’s high streets have lost popular names such as Debenhams, Topshop owner Arcadia group and Mothercare.