Court to rule on future of Wedgwood's collection - Museums Association

Court to rule on future of Wedgwood’s collection

Decision on whether collection can be sold to plug a £135m pensions deficit could take months
Gary Noakes
The Wedgwood Museum Trust faces a six-month wait for a court to decide whether the Wedgwood Pension Plan Trustee Limited (WPPTL) has a claim on its collection to plug a £135m shortfall in pension payments.

A legal quirk means that because five museum trust staff were members of the 7,000-strong Wedgwood Group Pension Plan, which is managed by WPPTL, when Wedgwood collapsed last year, the trust could face liability for the entire £135m, rather than the £60,000 owed to the five concerned.

The trust has been put in administration so that the Pension Protection Fund (PPF), the government body that guarantees payments to members of eligible funds, can safeguard payments to members of the Wedgwood Group Pension Plan. The PPF can act only once a company is placed into administration.

Steve Currie, an insolvency director with administrators Begbies Traynor, said a court application had been made to decide whether the museum’s collection was available to unsecured creditors.

“We anticipate that will take up to six months to resolve,” he said.

The administrators can argue that the collection has endowment status, meaning that it cannot be sold.

“There is some question as to whether the collection is held in trust by the museum, as some pieces have been donated,” added Currie. “If it is not, the assets will become available.”

He said if this was the case, a financial donation or series of donations would have to be sought.

“Everyone involved is trying to establish a way that means the collection is kept intact,” he said. The museum is continuing to operate as normal.

Trust chairman George Stonier said it was in talks “with a wide range” of interested parties to see how the Designated Collections could be preserved.

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