Sunday, 29 March 2009

Wedgwood Company Future

KPS Capital have succeeded in buying Wedgwood, all links with the
founding family have now been completely severed. Alison Wedgwood,
wife of Thomas D. Wedgwood who, with his cousin Thomas R. Wedgwood led
the Family Consortium which attempted to "Save Wedgwood", has asked me
to forward this message to you all with their THANKS FOR YOUR SUPPORT.

"Our Fight, Hopes and Fears for Wedgwood"
A Personal View by Alison Wedgwood – March 27th 2009

I just wanted to share with readers and the numerous employees and
ex-employees that have been in contact me my thoughts on what has
happened with regard to the Wedgwood family bidding for Waterford
Wedgwood. We made a non-binding indicative bid on 13th February. This
was co-ordinated by Wedgwood Partners Ltd, a consortium comprising the
Wedgwood family and a number of talented ex-employees, supporters and
professionals plus one regulated firm of professional advisors and one
FSA regulated fund management and corporate finance firm.

Due diligence had been taking place since the end of January, and was
ramped up in February when over a dozen legal, financial and corporate
specialists were in process of analysing all aspects of the potential
purchase. Rob Flello, MP and the union Unite have been very helpful
throughout this process.  The investors were gathered, but there were
barriers to finding all the information because certain aspects of
Waterford Wedgwood were NOT in administration and so data about these
firms, their role and their contracts with the rest of the group was
not available.

We spoke to staff in Peter Mandelson's Ministry, the Department for
Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform but they were unable to
assist in accessing this information because most of it was offshore.
The investors therefore could not proceed and make a binding offer on
large portions of the business they had not analysed and we could not
produce contracts and discuss heads of terms with the investors. I
cannot discuss any details of the contents of the bid because
non-disclosure agreements between Deloittes and bidders ensure that
everything that happens with regard to bidding stays out of the public

KPS announced they had come to a deal with Deloittes on Friday 27th
February due to "completion of overseas transactions". This has now
taken place and just as we feared it looks like KPS will move most of
the production, except prestige, to Indonesia.

Tom and Tom, the professional advisers, ex-employees, legal experts
and financiers worked weekends and through nights to try and secure a
deal that would ensure Wedgwood stayed in Stoke, producing outstanding
pottery for export around the world. We still believe passionately in
this goal and like the rest of Stoke, wait and see what an American
private equity firm working with many of the original senior managers
and Board of Waterford Wedgwood that brought Wedgwood to it's knees
can possibly do now.

For the real people in Stoke, the suppliers and sub-contractors owed
money, and the workers who signed legal contracts for enhanced
redundancy packages with the management in November last year, I feel
angry. They will be at the back of the queue when it comes to dishing
out any cash from the sale. I can only hope that we don't have even
more redundancies and, God forbid, if there are please can they be
done with dignity, not just a line of people left standing in the rain
waiting to be lead to the chamber/room.

It would seem that, just as in banking, reward for failure, a culture
of entitlement and managers who never accept responsibility is the way
of business and proves again the distorted global capitalist model
that has grown like an out of control monster these last 10 years. The
tragedy is that it's the workers who've put in 30 years of hard work,
growing a business, actually making real things out of the minerals
and clays of the area that really suffer.

The KPS business model will see many businessmen nodding their heads
in agreement: cut costs, streamlining, labour that is 85% cheaper in
Indonesia. Ironic when you consider that Deloittes admin staff are
charged out at £220 an hour and partners at £745 an hour and they've
earned over £3 million in fees over 3 months.

But will the KPS model work? I know that consumers in Japan are
dismayed to find out that the Indonesian factory even exists; I know
of an American who smashed his purchased item in the showroom when he
found out it was made in Indonesia. I know the owner of the only
Indonesian showroom didn't want to stock Wedgwood sourced from the
factory just down the road from her.  I know that Steelite and Dudson
produce outstanding ware in Stoke competing head on with low cost
producers overseas and winning outright. I know that the real pottery
craftsmen and women and their commitment is only found in Stoke. The
clay and bone ash is sourced around Stoke, and it has to be
transported to Indonesia. The skilled craftsmen are not expensive; the
pound is low. Anyway, the labour costs have not been part of the
problem, the supply chain and distribution networks organised by the
senior management are more to blame.  Tom D spent a month on the
production line in 2005 and knows full well where the wastage and
inefficiencies are.

I'm sure KPS know all this as well, and they are hoping that less
discerning buyers won't care about country of origin, won't care about
the 250 years of heritage, excellence, design and Josiah's legacy as a
marketing pioneer.  They're not proud of the Wedgwood history in
Staffordshire how it is intertwined with the Darwin's, the industrial
revolution, the Lunar Society, the strong Wedgwood women who were
instrumental in the abolitionist fight and the daughter of Josiah who
gave birth to one of the world's greatest scientists Charles Darwin.
But they should care, because they may find out that the Wedgwood
Collectors Societies and all the discerning consumers who aspire to
purchase exquisite china that represents 250 year of this heritage -
they really do care. Then what happens to global sales?"

-------- End-----

REMEMBER to continue to support the Wedgwood Museum, managed by an
independent trust. They have just re-opened a state-of-the art museum
at Barlaston. It contains one of the finest collections of Wedgwood in
the world, new research facilities and 85,000 archival items -the
Wedgwood Manuscript collection dating from the sixteenth century.

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