Chaos at Canburg: A turbulent history

Smallbone of Devizes and Mark Wilkinson Furniture have for more than 30 years been bywords for original British craftsmanship in cabinetry and innovation in interior design in the UK as well as across the pond in the US and count many celebrities as clients.

But the past decade or so has seen some rocky times for the brands as ambitious expansion plans collided with more challenging trading conditions, particularly after the global banking crisis in 2008 triggered a litany of economic consequences that continue to reverberate in the UK, Europe and the US in particular.

See below for a timeline of key moments in the recent history of the West Country luxury kitchen brands Smallbone of Devizes and Mark Wilkinson Furniture.



March 19, 2009
Leo Caplan secures the future of Smallbone of Devizes and Mark Wilkinson Furniture and about 400 jobs after parent firm Smallbone plc collapses into administration. Administrators at PwC said Smallbone of Devizes had a turnover of £21 million in 2008 and Mark Wilkinson had a turnover of £26m in 2008.

October 14, 2013
Caplan contemplates selling Canburg after unsolicited offers prompt him to appoint financial advisors to assess opportunities for the firm. The Daily Telegraph says in a report that the business could be sold for between £60m and £100m.

September 8, 2014
Canburg announces that it has secured an £8m investment from the £2.5 billion Business Growth Fund (BGF) fund, which describes itself as the UK and Ireland’s most active investor in small businesses. At the time, Caplan told the media: “I am confident that, over the next five years, we can grow the business from its current valuation of over £50m (post-investment) to a global luxury group worth in excess of £500m.”

June 15, 2016
Canburg says international sales have grown 110% over two years, with demand particularly high from New York’s ultra-prime condominium owners.

June 16, 2016
Canburg appoints Poggenpohl sales director Martin Gill as chief operating officer.

August 29, 2017
Martin Gill leaves Canburg after 18 months in his role.

September 28, 2018
In a surprise announcement, Canburg says Leo Caplan, chief executive of Canburg for the past nine years and main shareholder, will step down from his post. The firm says he will be replaced by former Furniture Village director Ian Gray, a self-proclaimed turnaround specialist who was employed by Robert Dyas following a management buyout in 2009.

November 15, 2018
kbbreview breaks the news that Canburg has shut its Harrogate Smallbone and Mark Wilkinson showrooms as well as another Mark Wilkinson store in Brentwood. It said its Mark Wilkinson studio in Tunbridge Wells shut in September. The company said it was “stable, happy and in good health” despite delaying filing its financial accounts.

November 26, 2018
Canburg prepares to file for administration throwing the future of the iconic Devizes brands into doubt, Sky News reports

November 30, 2018
It is confirmed that Canburg has been sold to US investor Gary Barnett, president and founder of New York-based real estate specialist Extell Development Company, through a vehicle called Sapphire 700. It is not disclosed how much Sapphire 700 bought Canburg for, but it has since emerged that the purchase price was £1 million.

February 1, 2019
Graham Jones joins the new owner of Smallbone of Devizes and Mark Wilkinson Furniture as sales and marketing director.

February 8, 2019
After a statement of affairs by administrators Grant Thornton, kbbreview reveals the full extent of how trading losses and cash-flow pressure at Canburg forced the company’s collapse under huge debts.

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