By  on January 6, 2009

LONDON — Waterford Wedgwood plc is the latest British firm to fall victim to the credit crunch.

The Ireland-based company that produces Wedgwood tableware, Royal Doulton china and Waterford crystal placed its U.K. and Irish divisions into administration and receivership, the U.K. equivalent of Chapter 11, on Monday.

The company, founded in 1759, manufactures its own lines of tableware and crystal glassware, alongside ranges created by designers including Marc Jacobs, John Rocha, Vera Wang, Jasper Conran and Martha Stewart.

Administrators at Deloitte said poor trading conditions meant the company had not been able to complete its planned financial restructuring. The company also failed to find a buyer, which finally forced it to seek administrative protection.

A spokesman for Waterford Wedgwood told WWD Monday that administrators intend to run the business as normal while the company continues to look for a buyer, and added there was “no reason why” the designers’ lines would be impacted.

The spokesman added the company’s U.S. division would not be affected by the U.K. and Ireland businesses going into administration. “We will be continuing to trade the business as a going concern,” said Angus Martin, joint administrator at Deloitte.

“Waterford, Wedgwood and Royal Doulton are quintessentially classic brands that represent a high-quality product steeped in history,” he added. “The administration team will be working closely with management, customers and suppliers during this time to ensure operations continue whilst a sale of the business is sought.”

The company has 19 stores in the U.K., alongside 120 retail concessions in the region. Its U.K. business employs around 1,900, while worldwide Waterford Wedgwood employs over 7,000.

Waterford Wedgwood was formed when British businessman Anthony O’Reilly merged Irish crystal manufacturer Waterford with iconic British china brand Wedgwood in 1986 in a drive to build a major luxury goods group focused on home and related products. Waterford Wedgwood expanded into such areas as pots and pans through the purchase of All-Clad and O’Reilly claimed he saw potential to push into other luxury goods sectors such as leather goods. But the firm failed to realize those goals, All-Clad eventually was sold and much of Waterford Wedgwood’s production is now outside the U.K. and Ireland. O’Reilly and his brother-in-law, Peter Goulandris, who still own over half the company’s shares, have resigned as directors, as has the rest of the board.

In recent weeks such companies as Woolworths, Hardy Amies, Ghost, Allegra Hicks, Marchpole, tea merchant Whittards of Chelsea and china suppliers Royal Worcester and Spode have all gone into receivership. Woolworths is closing all its stores, having failed to find a buyer, while the other firms have found or are in the process of seeking buyers.

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