Staffordshire’s historic Wedgwood Collection of pottery, art and writing has been sold by administrators at Begbies Traynor to the Art Fund charity, following a successful public fundraising campaign aimed at keeping the works together.
The sale was due to complete this morning (Monday, December 1) in line with an agreement reached with creditors of the Wedgwood Museum Trust Ltd, which entered administration after owner Waterford Wedgwood Potteries collapsed in 2009.
Recognising the national importance of the 80,000-piece collection, Bob Young and Steve Currie, of business recovery specialist Begbies Traynor’s Stoke-on-Trent office, worked tirelessly to prevent the works valued at £15.75m from being broken up and sold at auction.
Mr Young and Mr Currie led negotiations involving creditors, Culture Minister Ed Vaizey, the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Art Fund, reaching a deal to save the collection earlier this year.
It was agreed that the Art Fund would purchase the collection and then gift it to the V&A Museum. The V&A will assume responsibility for the collection in perpetuity. It is expected that the V&A will loan the precious works to Waterford Wedgwood Royal Doulton Ltd (“WWRD”) under an operating agreement currently being drawn up with a view to it remaining at its long-standing Barlaston site.
Mr Young said: “It was incredibly satisfying to finally sign the sale contract transferring ownership of the Wedgwood Collection to the Art Fund, which has done a tremendous job of rallying people in Staffordshire and across the country in support of this very important piece of British heritage.
“Today’s fantastic outcome wouldn’t have been possible without the spirit of goodwill and determination shown during the often complex negotiations. Therefore I would like to thank everyone who took part in the talks on the collection’s future. This includes the staff at the Museum, members of the Wedgwood family, and local MPs, in particular Tristram Hunt who has helped with access to the Culture Minster, The Art Fund and the HLF. I would also like to thank Anthony Jones and his team at WWRD for all the financial and other support that they have given to the Museum and the Administrators over the last five years to enable us to keep the doors open.”
He added: “The transfer of ownership guarantees that people from Staffordshire and beyond will be able to continue to enjoy the Wedgwood Collection under one roof in its spiritual home in the Midlands.”
Tristram Hunt, MP for Stoke-on-Trent Central and Shadow Secretary of State for Education, has played a key role in efforts to save the Wedgwood Collection.
He said: “It’s absolutely fantastic news and I would like to congratulate all of those who have worked so hard over the past few years to preserve this incredibly important piece of heritage. The items contained within the Wedgwood Collection chart a significant part of Britain’s cultural development over centuries and play a crucial part in defining our national identity today.”
Alison Wedgwood, whose husband Tom is a direct descendant of Josiah Wedgwood, added: “On behalf of the Wedgwood family, I would like to thank Bob Young wholeheartedly for his calm professionalism, sincerity and clever negotiating skills. He is a local man, and he truly understood the importance of the Wedgwood Collection to the people of Staffordshire, playing a key role in working through the myriad labyrinth of legal and technical issues to ensure the best outcome for the Collection. Without him I fear this world recognised Collection may have been sold and scattered around the globe.”
The Art Fund raised the required £15.75m through a combination of support from the Heritage Lottery Fund and a high profile public fundraising appeal. The sale contract was conducted by professional services firm Knights, also based in Staffordshire.
The museum has remained open throughout the four years of the administration. It is scheduled to close for a short period over the New Year as part of the redevelopment of the Wedgwood estate but it is anticipated that the Wedgwood Museum will reopen in the Spring of 2015 and will form part of a new visitor centre being created by Waterford Wedgwood Royal Doulton.
Bob Young is senior partner at Begbies Traynor in Stoke-on-Trent, a fellow of the Insolvency Practitioners Association (FIPA) and a member of the Association of Business Recovery Professionals (MABRP) - and has over 30 years' experience of corporate rescue and recovery, turnaround and corporate and personal insolvency work. Formerly a partner in Poppleton & Appleby, a director of PricewaterhouseCoopers and Official Receiver in Birmingham, Bob has built up a substantial following in Staffordshire and beyond, and he chairs the North Staffordshire Chamber of Commerce Business & Finance Committee.