When rumours began to swirl that their business was facing challenges, the Duchess of Cambridge‘s parents said they were in talks with ‘exciting’ investors about expansion. Just how exciting can now be revealed.
A lingerie tycoon, whose company supplied Marks & Spencer with women’s underwear, has taken a hefty stake in Party Pieces, along with the owner of the one of the world’s biggest rugby league clubs.
Before becoming chief executive of Carole and Michael Middleton’s mail order and online firm with 23.3 per cent of its shares, Salford-born Steven Bentwood ran the Stirling Group, one of the world’s biggest underwear makers which helped M&S to make its name selling ‘practical’ underwear.
Lingerie tycoon Steven Bentwood (pictured right), whose company supplied Marks & Spencer with women’s underwear, has taken a hefty stake in Party Pieces
Mr Bentwood, 62, also owned another underwear firm – the decidedly racier Miss La La Presents Ltd, which catered for the frill-seeking woman.
Companies House documents also show that businessman Darryl Eales has taken a 17.5 per cent stake in Party Pieces.
The 60-year-old is a former chairman of Oxford United FC and owns Wigan Warriors – the most successful club in the history of British rugby league – and the National League football team Solihull Moors.
A spokesman for the Middletons’ party supplies business declined to comment on the new shareholders last night.
Companies House documents also show that businessman Darryl Eales (pictured) has taken a 17.5 per cent stake in Party Pieces
Mr and Mrs Middleton still own more than 50 per cent of the company they started on their kitchen table three decades ago.
Eighteen months ago, there were claims the firm was struggling and staff jobs were at risk. But Mrs Middleton insisted she wanted to grow the company.
Describing how she developed Party Pieces in an interview with Good Housekeeping magazine, she said: ‘My memories of those early days are very vivid.
‘We worked out of a studio in the garden that was a glorified shed.’
Carole and Michael Middleton (pictured) still own more than 50 per cent of the company they started on their kitchen table three decades ago
For the first year business came through word of mouth at the school gate and play group but accelerated after she used a children’s book company to send out flyers.
‘We put out 10,000 leaflets, which gave a huge boost to our orders,’ Mrs Middleton added.
‘They moved first to a start-up unit in Hungerford, then to a converted barn near their Berkshire home in 1995.
As a partnership, Party Pieces has not had to file its accounts, but reports have estimated its value at up to £30 million.