Famous Crystal Company Goes Bust

Eddie Rodriguez and Alberto Ibanez install some of the 72 new Waterford crystal "Hope For Peace" triangles on the Times Square New Year's Eve ball on the rooftop of One Times Square Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2006, in New York. The six-foot diameter, 1,070 pound crystal ball will serve as the centerpiece of the Times Square 2007 celebration.
AP Photo/Kathy Willens

For Waterford, designers of the famous New Year's ball in New York's Times Square, 2009 brought a final countdown - to bankruptcy, CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer reports.

It's a devastating setback for one of the world's most famous luxury brands, celebrated for fine glassware, crystal sporting trophies and presentation pieces. Even Ronald Reagan's jelly bean jar was Waterford.

"I don't think anyone can quite get their head around what's happened," said Kim Cotton of Tablewhere China Shop. "What a huge blow this is to British industry."

In fact, it's a double blow. That's because in the 1980s, Irish Waterford bought the English icon Wedgewood, whose dishes have graced elegant tables worldwide since the 18th century.

But more than 200 years on, lifestyles have changed. And people just don't need as many dishes.

"Young people are so happy to have TV dinners," Cotton said. "They're far more practical than my age group, where I always had a 'best set.'"

Talks are reportedly now under way with three interested buyers for this oh-so-British business. All of them are from the United States.

"The receiver believes that it may be possible to sell the business which would be very good for everyone," said Redmond O'Donoghue, who sits on the board of directors for Waterford Wedgwood. "But there is a certain question mark when a receiver comes in."

Waterford was driven out of business once before - by high taxes in 1851 - and remained closed for 100 years.

Everyone's hoping for a speedier rescue this time, so the noble old company is a going concern again in time for the New Year 2010.

  • Elizabeth Palmer
    Elizabeth Palmer

    Elizabeth Palmer has been a CBS News correspondent since August 2000. She has been based in London since late 2003, after having been based in Moscow (2000-03). Palmer reports primarily for the "CBS Evening News."