The family business that made the parents of the Princess of Wales millionaires went bankrupt last May, leaving debts of 2.6 million pounds (around 3.3 million euros at current exchange rates), according to a report by specialists in insolvency. Unpaid invoices from Party Pieces, a children’s party supply company founded by Carole and Michael Middleton, while hit by the effects of the pandemic, include more than 612,000 pounds (713,244 euros) in taxes.
Carole Middleton started in the business in 1987, when she was 32 years old and had just given birth to James, the youngest of her three children – Kate, the eldest, was born in 1982, and Pippa, in 1983. As Carole Middleton recounted a few years ago in an interview in the Sunday magazine of The Telegraph: “I felt that I had not achieved anything in life, I married at 25 and had Kate at 26”. She came from a family of humble origins, descendants of coal miners. In his childhood, he was educated in public schools and did not continue with his higher education because his parents could not afford it. This is how she began working as a secretary until she entered British Airways, where she ended up being a flight attendant, and where she met her husband, Michael Middleton, who was a flight dispatcher. Michael did come from a family of aristocratic origins based in Leeds, England, and had completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Surrey.
Carole Middleton had the business idea after looking for ideas for her daughter Kate’s fifth birthday, who is destined to be Queen of the United Kingdom today: she thought of a place where you could buy everything you need for a children’s party, and she began to develop it in her kitchen . In the pre-internet age, she decided to start a mail order business.
Party Pieces grew rapidly, generating significant profits. In 1989, Michael Middleton left his job at British Airways to work full-time at his wife’s company. By now they had stopped sending party packages out of their kitchen and had moved into farm buildings on Ashampstead Common in Berkshire County. The enormous success of the business, coupled with the trust funds Michael inherited from his aristocratic grandmother, Olive Christiana Middleton, enabled the family to send their three children to prestigious schools, including Marlborough College in Wiltshire, whose annual cost per student is 42,930 pounds (50,020 euros). Kate Middleton later studied art history at the University of St. Andrews, in Scotland, where tuition costs 27,770 pounds (32,380 euros). It was at that university where Kate Middleton and Prince William crossed paths in 2001.
During that splendid period, the Middletons also bought several properties, such as Oak Acre, a Tudor-style mansion in Bucklebury (Berkshire) or an apartment in the London neighborhood of Chelsea, for their children.
The free publicity generated by his eldest daughter’s relationship with the current heir to the throne of the British crown, and especially since the royal wedding in 2012, helped boost the already prosperous family business. The same year as the wedding of the current princes of Wales, the Middletons bought a Georgian-style mansion in Bucklebury Manor, near the royal estate of Windsor, and which they acquired for 4.7 million pounds (5.4 million euros). .
The entire family was involved in some way in the family business at some stage of their lives. Pippa Middleton helped her mother run the company blog, and Kate worked for Party Pieces helping to design the website and taking photos—a hobby she continues to photograph her three children today—before her 2011 marriage to Guillermo de England, eldest son of King Charles III.
However, during the pandemic, the company suffered dire financial consequences, and earlier this year, suppliers threatened legal action against Party Pieces for non-payments. In May, a bankruptcy proceeded and the company was sold to British businessman James Sinclair, who calls himself “the millionaire clown” since he started as an entertainer at children’s parties at the age of 15. Now, he has a series of businesses related to children, such as an ice cream company, day care centers, play centers and other attractions. The sale price of the Middleton company has not been revealed, but various British media suggest that it could be around 180,000 pounds (about 209,000 euros).
Party Pieces was “deeply affected by the effects of the pandemic and the subsequent restrictions on social gatherings,” said Will Wright of the managing group Interparty Advisory. His report specified that the company was missing 2.59 million pounds (about three million euros) to pay off all its debts.