Chancellor's family wallpaper business comes unstuck

It's going to be a quiet Christmas in the Osborne household, after the family business made a loss of £739,000.

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 06 Nov 2012
It’s going to be a frugal Christmas chez Osborne (George, not Ozzy), after Osborne & Little, the furnishing and wallpaper business owned by the chancellor’s family, posted disappointing results. The company, which has stores in Paris, Milan, Munich and the King’s Road in London, said a rise in the cost of raw materials meant it made a pre-tax loss of £739,000 in the last financial year. Although it probably doesn’t help that the company paid one (unspecified) director £736,000 in salary and pension contributions…

Admittedly, because of rules governing MPs’ holdings, George’s 15% stake is in a trust, so this probably won’t have much of an effect on the size of his turkey this year. But other investors (including George’s father, Sir Peter – the company’s co-founder and the 17th holder of a hereditary baronetcy) have done less well after the company said no dividend would be paid this year. Its workers have also lost out: apparently, the company saved £538,000 on salary payments over the past three years. And after a £3,500 donation, it stopped giving cash to political parties this year, too…

Things seem to be going a little better abroad – the company said that it made almost half its sales outside the UK, with just over a third going to continental Europe. That’s great as far as it goes – but what about following George’s advice and targeting those emerging markets? The Chinese need wallpaper, too…

Either way, though, the company said it expects times to continue to be tough: ‘There is little sign of this changing in the near future’. Although in an MT interview back in 2008, Osborne said that in the past, the business has taken the rough with the smooth. ‘It's been a part of my family for the whole of my life. I was always aware as a child when things were going well and when things weren't going so well,’ he said. ‘It's given me a strong understanding of what's involved in running a business - the risks, the hard work and the commitment. I remember it being floated and then dad buying it back again.'  

Still, at least he is in some kind of touch with life at the sharp end of the economy these days. Which is more than can be said for most of his cabinet colleagues…
Finance Retail

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