Silver Cross, pram-maker to the stars, goes bust

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The Independent Online

Silver Cross, the provider of prams to the rich and famous for over a century, has gone bust for the second time in just over three years. The accountancy firm Deloitte & Touche was called in early last week when financial irregularities to the tune of £3m were discovered at the firm.

Silver Cross, the provider of prams to the rich and famous for over a century, has gone bust for the second time in just over three years. The accountancy firm Deloitte & Touche was called in early last week when financial irregularities to the tune of £3m were discovered at the firm.

The "Rolls Royce" of children's transportation has previously impressed Madonna, Posh Spice and David Beckham, who have bought Silver Cross models for their offspring. The pregnant star of Sex and the City, Sarah Jessica Parker, also purchased a pram recently.

Silver Cross, which is based near Leeds, had already risen from the dead once before in 1999, when it went into administration due to tough competition from cheap imports of buggies and prams.

It was rescued by a family team but their efforts proved fruitless, and it was sold around 18 months ago to the current owner, Design Company Holdings, which makes soft furnishings and towelling for babies. The chairman is Jon Foulds, the former chairman of Halifax. He is also a shareholder, along with Sir David Alliance, the former chairman of Coats Viyella.

It is in the soft furnishings division where the irregularities have been found. It was recorded that the company had £6m of stock, but it is thought that this has been overstated by £3m.

The administrative receiver, Angus Martin, said it was too early to say whether the problem was due to error or foul play. He will go back through the records to discover how the discrepancy arose.

"My guess is that we will discover this accumulating over a number of years, although that is all conjecture at the moment," he said.

He added that the irregularities had been discovered by the new finance director, David Hodkin, who started a few weeks ago. "When he did a stock take [10 days ago] it became immediately obvious," said Mr Martin. On Monday he called the banks and Deloitte along to a meeting and it was decided to put the company into receivership. Mr Martin is hopeful of a sale as he has already had "seven or eight" expressions of interest.

The company was taking around £11m in sales a year and almost breaking even, according to the accounts, although the irregularities will mean that this figure is revised.

Silver Cross has been making prams since 1877 and customers have included Mick Jagger and the Royal Family. It had started becoming fashionable over the past five years, buthas experienced financial difficulties since 1994. It is used to stock problems and had £4m worth of unsold prams before it went into administration for the first time.

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