Solomon Lew’s Premier Investments to repay $15.6 million in JobKeeper funds

Billionaire retailer Solomon Lew has backflipped on his decision to not repay $15.6 million in government JobKeeper subsidies after a bout of strong trading meant the funds were no longer required.

Mr Lew’s retail empire Premier Investments, which operates companies such as Peter Alexander and Smiggle, notified shareholders on Monday it would pay back the $15.6 million in JobKeeper ‘net benefit’ it had received over 2020.

Premier Investments chairman Solomon Lew wil repay $15.6 million in JobKeeper.
Premier Investments chairman Solomon Lew wil repay $15.6 million in JobKeeper.Credit:Eddie Jim

This comes as a stark contrast to Mr Lew and Premier’s stance at its half-yearly result earlier this year, where the billionaire was adamant about his decision to hold on to the funds in case they were needed to pay staff through future lockdowns.

In the statement, the business said it had been forced to shut its stores through Queensland and Western Australia’s snap lockdowns, and the company used the JobKeeper funds to support stood-down staff.

However, sales performance at the company’s stores following the lockdowns upon reopening had “fully offset the cost of supporting our teams”, meaning the JobKeeper funds were not required.

Premier Investments operates companies such as Peter Alexander and Smiggle.
Premier Investments operates companies such as Peter Alexander and Smiggle.Credit:Edwina Pickles

“The Premier Board, having regard to these outcomes, combined with the success of the Commonwealth and State Government’s management of COVID-19, has determined that it is now appropriate to refund the net JobKeeper benefit of $15.6 million to the Australian Tax Office,” the company said.

Premier has been one of the companies directly in the firing line of politicians and governance advocates who have been calling for profitable businesses to repay their JobKeeper takings.

At the business’s half-year result, Premier reported a profit of $188 million, nearly double its profit in the prior corresponding half. It also declared a 34 cent per share dividend.


The $15.6 million in JobKeeper set to be repaid by Premier is not the total amount claimed by the retailer during COVID-19, with the company’s 9000-odd employees eligible for nearly $70 million of the stimulus payments.

More to come

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