07 Jan 2009

Waterford Crystal Maker Bankrupt

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Hard times are not only impacting large financial institutions like Lehman and AIG.

NY Times:

Queen Elizabeth, the Kremlin and the White House have been customers, but in the current economic climate, luxury crystals and ceramics are a hard sell as Waterford Wedgwood conceded Monday.

The company, which is based in Dublin and whose roots go back 250 years, makes and sells crystal vases, glasses and ceramic figurines and kitchenware. It made the ball that drops each New Year’s Eve in Times Square, and its crystal chandeliers decorate Windsor Castle and the Kennedy Center.

Waterford Wedgwood said on Monday that its 10 British units and 4 businesses in Ireland were placed into administration, similar to bankruptcy protection in the United States, after running out of money and failing to find a buyer. The remaining subsidiaries, including those in the United States, Germany and Canada, remain unaffected.

The auditor, Deloitte, was appointed as administrator of the troubled businesses, which employ 2,700, or more than half of Waterford’s 5,000 employees. The units will continue to operate until the administrator decides to sell, close or reorganize them.

“I am disappointed that certain of the group’s U.K. 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 business,” the chief executive of Waterford, David Sculley, said.

Waterford Wedgwood was created in 1986 when the Irish crystal maker Waterford acquired the British ceramics company Wedgwood. Both companies have a rich history. Wedgwood was founded in 1759 by Josiah Wedgwood in Stoke-on-Trent, England. Charles Darwin, who formulated the theory of evolution, married a member of the Wedgwood family in the 19th century and was able to finance his research with the help of the family fortunes.

Waterford was founded in 1783 by the brothers William and George Penrose and named after the Irish harbor town where they lived. Waterford faced difficult times in 1851, when it closed because of rising taxes, but the business reopened almost 100 years later. The Irish government gave Waterford glassware as a present to each American president from Dwight Eisenhower to Ronald Reagan, who kept his jelly beans in a Waterford dish.

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