US deal saves games company

THE future of a troubled Suffolk games manufacturer has been secured.Upstarts, based at Claydon, near Ipswich, has been acquired by US company University Games, which plans to keep the site and its present workforce.

THE future of a troubled Suffolk games manufacturer has been secured.

Upstarts, based at Claydon, near Ipswich, has been acquired by US company University Games, which plans to keep the site and its present workforce.

The brand became a household name after producing a string of hit board games, including Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? and Play Your Cards Right, but went into administration in April of this year after hitting financial problems following poor Christmas sales.

Ten of the firm's 18 staff were laid off at that point, but the company continued to trade while the administrators sought a buyer to run it as a going concern.


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The upbeat announcement over its future followed late night negotiations with the American company on Thursday night , and the deal was sealed on Friday afternoon.

Joint administrator Chris Williams of McTear Williams and Wood in Ipswich confirmed that the jobs of the remaining eight staff and the Claydon site were now secure.

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“That was actually one of the attractions of this deal over some of the other deals, that they will continue there,” said Mr Williams.

“The people who remained with the company will stay with the company and will work in Claydon.”

Company founder Tom White will continue as managing director alongside a representative from University Games Corp.

McTear Williams & Wood said the sale was made possible through the enthusiasm of Mr White and other senior board members, who had worked hard to provide information to the purchasers.

“We look forward to strengthening our distribution in the United Kingdom with Upstarts! Who are one of the leading games manufacturers in the UK,” said Bob Moog, president of University Games Corp.

Mr White, who founded the company with John Mariani in 1988, said the American firm's library of products covering many categories, would be “a great addition” to the Upstarts! product line in the UK.

“We are excited to join forces with such a go-ahead and expanding company, and look forward to a promising future together,” he said.

The administrators were called in in April when it became apparent that ongoing cashflow problems due to unsold stock of DVD games last Christmas were not going to be resolved and efforts to sell the business failed. The administrators and the firm's board members worked against the clock to find a suitable buyer ahead of the crucial Christmas trading period and finally made the all-important breakthrough last week.

The company was one of the first players in the DVD market in 2005, but by 2006, the market was saturated and it failed to meet its sales forecasts.

University Games was founded in 1985 by university friends Bob Moog and Cris Leman and went from strength to strength.

Today, it distributes more products to more outlets and markets than any other game company. It has five divisions - University Games, which produces board games, Great Explorations, comprising science and learning/novelties/glow-in-the-dark products, BePuzzled, which makes puzzles, Colorforms, which produces vinyl stick-on play sets, board games/travel games and floor puzzles, and Spinner Books, which makes books you can read and play.

Joint administrator Andrew McTear said: “The sale was a testament to the strength of the company's connections with the major licence holders, principally television companies and well known national retailers.

“However, the administration would not have been possible without funding provided by McTear Williams & Wood for the first month of trading, which enabled salaries to be paid and vital supplies bought in, which we were happy to do to give a sale a chance.”

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