Waterford’s Bleak Gaze in the Crystal Ball

Iconic luxury products maker Waterford Wedgwood files for bankruptcy, joining a host of British consumer-products companies in receivership.
Stephen TaubJanuary 5, 2009

Waterford Wedgwood PLC became the latest consumer products company or retailer to file for bankruptcy.

Its stock units were suspended from trading on the Irish Stock Exchange on Monday, and David Carson of Deloitte LLP was named as a receiver for the company and certain of its Irish subsidiaries. Angus Martin, Neville Khan, Nick Dargan, and Dominic Wong of Deloitte were named as joint administrators to Waterford Wedgwood UK plc and certain UK subsidiaries.

The global maker of luxury crystal, ceramics, and other products — which dates to 1783, and whose Wedgwood brand dates to 1759 — is trying to recapitalize or find a buyer, according to the Associated Press. In addition to its Waterford and Wedgwood products, which were combined in a 1986 acquisition, the company is known for its Rosenthal and Royal Doulton brands.

“I am disappointed that certain of the group’s UK and Irish subsidiaries have had to go into administration and receivership, but we remain optimistic that ongoing discussions will result in a buyer being found for the businesses,” said David Sculley, Waterford Wedgwood group CEO.

“The Board has acted tirelessly in its efforts to resolve the company’s issues as a going concern,” added Sir Anthony O’Reilly, nonexecutive chairman of Waterford Wedgwood plc. “We are consoled only by the fact that everything that could have been done, by management and by the board, to preserve the group, was done.”

The wire service said that the company has 1,900 employees in Britain, including about 800 in Waterford, in southeastern Ireland, and 600 in Stoke-on-Trent in central England. The company employs 7,700 in all around the world — especially Eastern Europe, and including 1,500 at ceramics plant in Jakarta. According to the AP, the administrators said they would work closely with management, customers, and suppliers to ensure operations continue while a sale of the business is sought.

Waterford Wedgwood is the latest venerable name to file for bankruptcy in recent months, according to the AP, which noted that established companies going before it in the U.K. have included Woolworths; Hardy Amies, the queen’s tailor; Whittard of Chelsea, the tea and coffee merchant; and Royal Worcester and Spode.

In the U.S., all eyes are on retailers after the holiday season, with experts anticipating a number of them filing for bankruptcy.