O'Reilly to head Waterford Wedgwood

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The Independent Online
TONY O'REILLY, the chairman of HJ Heinz, Independent Newspapers and Fitzwilton Group, is to take the helm at the troubled luxury goods group Waterford Wedgwood.

The former Irish international rugby union star will succeed Donald Brennan, the banker from Morgan Stanley who has been chairman since the financial reconstruction of the company two years ago.

Mr Brennan told Waterford Wedgwood's annual meeting yesterday that he would hand over the chairmanship when the financial reconstruction of the group was completed and it was on a sound footing, which he said would be at the end of this year or early next. The group has lost more than Ir pounds 70m ( pounds 70m) over the past seven years.

Mr Brennan said that without the Ir pounds 80m capital injection, which was backed by Dr O'Reilly, Morgan Stanley and a consortium of wealthy investors in 1991, and a stiff cost-cutting programme, which was completed only in January, Waterford Wedgwood would probably not have survived.

He also said that Dr O'Reilly's marketing experience and talents were what the group needed to take it forward once the financial position was secured.

Analysts in Dublin expect a modest profit from Waterford Wedgwood this year, though they are still concerned that the group is overly dependent on a few US retailers and that if the US economy weakens sales of its famous Waterford glass products might falter.