Waterford Wedgwood's bankruptcy earlier this year was a crystal-clear sign that luxury products weren't immune from the ravages of worldwide recession. Now an investment firm with an appetite for troubled companies is buying the fine porcelain and glassware maker and plans to use the company to power a high-end shopping spree.
KPS Capital, a New York-based private equity firm, wouldn't say how much it paid for Waterford Wedgwood. New CEO Pierre de Villemejane said most of its competitors are struggling, "presenting a significant opportunity to consolidate the industry worldwide."
To boost the company's performance, WWRD Holdings, the new company KPS Capital formed to make the purchase, plans to move some manufacturing jobs from the United Kingdom to Indonesia, according to news reports. Also helpful: WWRD will leave $1 billion in debts behind in bankruptcy.
KPS Capital first announced an agreement to buy some of Waterford Wedgwood's assets last month. These fresh details give a better picture of its plans for its new investment.
They also provide an interesting juxtaposition with the firm's other big acquisition this year: the U.S. operations of decidely less up-market Labatt Brewing Co., the largest Canadian beermaker. The Justice Department forced international beverage powerhouse InBev to sell Labatt as a condition of its deal to buy Anheuser-Busch last year. The government feared the deal would give InBev too much power over beer prices in places like Buffalo, where Labatt is popular.
KPS Capital also owns High Falls Brewing Co., maker of iconic Western New York beer brands such as Genesse Cream Ale and Honey Brown lager. No word yet on whether cut-glass Waterford beer steins are being planned.
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