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Waterford Wedgwood Emerges from Bankruptcy


Waterford Wedgwood, the celebrated crystal and ceramic tableware maker, has emerged from bankruptcy with a new lease on life and a radically different approach to business. The company, which suffered from low sales and high costs, has shed well over $1 billion of debts and legacy costs and is shifting most of its production overseas away from the UK.

The new company is closing down the original Waterford, Ireland crystal factory, which a spokesman described as “a dinosaur manufacturing plant”. Most of the crystal production will be shifted to Slovakia and other places in Eastern Europe where labour costs are much lower. The new company is keeping the original Barlaston, Staffordshire china factory mainly for its visitor centre. Only the most elaborate and most expensive pieces will be manufactured at this plant in the future.

Although the new company will continue to be called Waterford Wedgwood, none of the Waterford crystal and the vast majority of the Wedgwood and Royal Doulton china will no longer be manufactured in the UK. The bulk of the china production will shift to Indonesia. “Labour [there] is 85 per cent cheaper than the UK” said a company spokesman.

The new owner of Waterford Wedgwood is a private equity firm known as KPS Capital Partners. They specialize in buying troubled firms, shedding legacy costs and turning them around by ‘making more things with less people’. This process is sometimes referred to as ‘strip and rip’ in private equity circles where legacy costs are stripped from a company by bankruptcy or other means and then the high-profile brand names are kept while ripping out most of the manufacturing base and relocating it to much lower-cost overseas locations.

Many genealogists have family heirlooms made by Waterford, Wedgwood or Royal Doulton. From a genealogist’s perspective, it will be interesting to see if consumers will continue to pay a premium for Waterford Wedgwood product that has a UK name and a UK storefront but is manufactured in plants in lesser-developed countries. Certainly much of the UK manufacturing tradition and legacy of the company disappeared with the bankruptcy. However, already a group of businessmen from Waterford, Ireland is trying to start up a new company in the area to continue the tradition of excellence in high-quality crystal that Waterford, Ireland has been known for over two hundred years.

Related Article: see Waterford Wedgwood Goes Bankrupt for more information about how you can protect your Waterford investment.

More Genealogy News

Genealogy and the Economy

This article is part of a new ongoing series on genealogy and the economy. As the global economy goes into a deep recession, Genealogy in Time™ will continue to report on the impact the economy will have on the world of genealogy. Below are other articles in this series:

Why Are Newspapers Dying?
Cemetery Theft on the Decline
Waterford Wedgwood Goes Bankrupt
From Doubledecker Buses to Doubledecker Graves