Page last updated at 13:14 GMT, Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Wedgwood family speak of 'tragic' demise

By Tom Warren
BBC News

Tom Wedgwood
Tom Wedgwood is a direct descendant of Josiah Wedgwood

A direct descendant of Josiah Wedgwood has questioned the way the troubled china and ceramics firm has been run.

Tom Wedgwood, the seventh generation descendant of the iconic company's founder, said Waterford Wedgwood's current situation was "tragic".

It has gone into administration after the economic slowdown hit the debt-laden firm.

Wedgwood, founded in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, has been known as an iconic name in British pottery for 250 years, with many households in the UK owning one or more of its pieces.

In 1987 Wedgwood merged with Waterford Crystal to create Waterford Wedgwood, an Irish-based luxury brands group.

Mr Wedgwood, who co-owns Newton Industrial Consultants and has been a consultant for Waterford Wedgwood, said the company's most important market now lay in the Far East.

"The crying shame is it's got a very strong brand and there's huge demand for [the chinaware] in Japan and China that [the company] is struggling to meet."

I live in Stoke and to see it all potentially disappear is tragic
Tom Wedgwood

He questioned the decision to move jobs and production from the UK to Indonesia.

In the UK, Waterford Wedgwood still employs 1,900 people - of these, about 600 work in manufacturing at Barlaston, Stoke-on-Trent.

"My concern is that you go and talk to people in Japan and if they know that the [products] aren't made in the UK, they won't buy them.

"There's a question over whether we have lost something by not having stuff visibly made in Stoke.

"This issue hasn't come out of the blue, Waterford Wedgwood has been struggling for some time - people don't buy big dinner sets as much as they used to.

Business 'needs attention'

"But the prestige-ware business has grown over the last five years and that's frustrating.

"There's no reason why there shouldn't be a very reasonable business. Each individual [part of the] business, I don't think, has had the attention it needed."

He said other Stoke-based chinaware firms such as Steelite had prospered in recent years.

Mr Wedgwood, who has 15 years of experience in manufacturing industries, said his family had not been directly involved in the running of Waterford Wedgwood for the past 60 years.

But he said they felt frustrated at the current state of the firm.

"It has hit the family like you would expect. We're annoyed at the way things have turned out and it could have been very different.

"I live in Stoke and to see it all potentially disappear is tragic."

Waterford china cups
Wedgwood was founded in Stoke-on-Trent 250 years ago

Mr Wedgwood's wife Alison, a former Labour parliamentary candidate, said "bad marketing" was behind some of the company's problems.

But she said she thought there could be a bright future for Waterford Wedgwood.

Brand consultant Robert Jones, of Wolff Olins, believes the company should stop trading on its heritage and instead concentrate on innovation.

But Mrs Wedgwood said that would be "bad advice".

"In-built in Wedgwood is the history, that's what the Asian market is buying."

Sir Anthony O'Reilly, non-executive chairman of Waterford Wedgwood, said the board had "acted tirelessly in its efforts to resolve the company's issues as a going concern".

"The principal shareholders have invested in support of this business for almost 20 years.

"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."

Deloitte has been appointed as administrator to seek buyers for different parts of the company.

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SEE ALSO
How Waterford Wedgwood cracked
06 Jan 09 |  Business
Wedgwood demise a 'severe blow'
05 Jan 09 |  Staffordshire
Wedgwood goes into administration
05 Jan 09 |  Business

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