China Crisis Averted

Stripped of its assets and driven into administration, one of the UK's best-known potters is fired up again, says Kotaro Miyata
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The Independent Online

Poole Pottery, one of the UK's most famous ceramics makers, has been rescued after its previous owner, Orb Estates, the Jersey-based investment group, pushed it to the brink of extinction.

Orb has a chequered past and is being investigated by the Serious Fraud Office. It is also being sued by Izodia, a software company where Orb used to hold a 30 per cent stake, after £33m disappeared from Izodia's bank account - the majority of which is believed to have been transferred to Orb and associate companies. Under Orb's ownership, Poole Pottery was also subjected to ritual asset stripping. The original quayside site was sold for £14.6m and developed into a block of luxury apartments, while the business was stripped of £8m in cash. Poole Pottery was put into administration in June 2003.

A group of investors led by turnaround specialist Peter Ford has bought the company from administration for an undisclosed fee. "It's a strong brand with tremendous potential for growth," said Peter Ford. "We think it is significantly undervalued."

The pottery, famous for its dolphin logo, has a loyal customer base and business has been resilient. Sales have fallen from £3.4m in June 2002 to £3m, but the company continues to sell its cups and saucers to important clients such as John Lewis.

"Poole compares with Moorcroft and Denby, but Poole is much smaller, despite a better-known brand name. This is the opportunity," said Mr Ford.