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Wilkinson family go separate ways

The family behind Wilkinson, one of Britain’s biggest privately owned retailers, has split after 84 years of running the business.

One side of the Wilkinson family have sold their 50pc holding in the retailer to the other, with Karin Swann, joint chairman and a non-executive family director, leaving the board.

The departure of half the family represents a major overhaul of Wilkinson, which was founded in 1930 when James Kemsey Wilkinson and his fiancé opened a store in Leicester.

The value retailer, which has rebranded as Wilko, has 372 stores, 23,000 employees and annual revenues in excess of £1.5bn.

It sells a wide variety of products, including homeware, furniture, accessories, health and beauty products, and toys. Wilkinson has often been compared with Woolworths, which collapsed in 2008.

Sources close to the retailer insisted the family has not fallen out, but that Ms Swann’s side of the family wanted to pursue “other business interests”.

Mrs Swann’s husband, Peter, was named chairman of Scunthorpe United football club last year and the couple own jazz clubs in the north of the England.

Their shareholding in the business has been sold to the other side of the Wilkinson family, which is led by Lisa Wilkinson, who is now the sole chairman.

It is understood that the family paid for the stake, but a spokesman said the terms of the deal were a “private family matter”.

Wilkinson is likely to have been valued in excess of £500m in the transaction. Last year, it reported sales of £1.53bn and pre-tax profits of £27.5m.

Karin Swann and Lisa Wilkinson are the third generation of the family to run Wilkinsons.

The company’s founder, who is known as JK, had two children, Tony and Barbara Wilkinson, who were the second generation to run the business. Mrs Swann is Barbara’s daughter and Lisa Wilkinson is Tony’s daughter. It is Barbara’s side of the family that has decided to cease being shareholders.

This means that complete ownership of the retailer has passed to Tony Wilkinson, his wife Christine, and Lisa Wilkinson, who will remain the family director.

A spokesman for the firm said: “The change is not expected to affect customers, team members, suppliers or advisers in any way.”

Source : Graham Ruddick - The Telegraph

03 August 2014

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