A history of capitalism in the demise of one global British brand

The World

At the dawn of the industrial revolution in Britain one of the first global brands created was that of Wedgwood china. Founded in 1759 by potter Josiah Wedgwood, it set standards that others were unable to match. A set of Wedgwood china became the mark of distinction for any aristocratic home and, more importantly, any home of the rapidly emerging middle classes.

At the dawn of de-regulated capitalism, in the 1980's, Wedgwood was acquired by the Waterford crystal company. Not for the first time or the last in this era, the management cultures of the two companies were fatally mismatched, the company went bust in 2008.

At the dawn of the post-crash phase of bail-out capitalism Wedgwood was acquired by a New York private equity firm, KPS Capital Partners. Most of its remaining 1,500 workers were laid off and manufacturing moved to China.

Now, there are reports that to plug a hole in the Waterford Wedgwood pension fund, the Wedgwood Museum, which houses a collection of the company's best work is to be closed and the china and other artifacts to be sold. This follow's a legal ruling by Britain's High Court that the objects are assets of the company.

£129 million pounds is the shortfall ($203.5 million). The collection is thought to be worth around £18 million, according to The Daily Telegraph, considerably less than what the average Russian oligarch spends on a mediocre painting at Sotheby's or Christie's auctions these days.

Martin Levy, a London art dealer told The Guardian, "A small gain for the pensioners will be a long-term loss for the country – no more than a pyrrhic victory."

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