The Middleton family’s business, Party Pieces, is apparently firing a lot of employees

Prince Louis christening

Even before then-Kate Middleton married Prince William, I was convinced that there was some shady stuff happening with the Middleton finances. The Middletons made their fortune with Party Pieces, at least that’s the official story. I never doubted that Party Pieces was a profitable start-up company from Carole Middleton, just as I never doubted that Carole has a true entrepreneurial spirit. What I doubted was this idea that the Middletons amassed a reported 40-million-pound fortune from selling cheap party supplies. I think they probably made enough for a comfortable middle-class life, but this whole “the Middletons are rich AF because of Party Pieces” idea was just PR. I still believe that the Middletons’ keeping-up-with-the-Joneses lifestyle was supplemented quite heavily by shady Uncle Gary. Well, now the Daily Mail (and The Sun) has an interesting story about how Party Pieces might be facing some hardships. Huh.

The party supplies company run by the Duchess of Cambridge’s mother has dismissed some of its staff amid fears for its future, it was claimed last night. Party Pieces, run by Carole Middleton, is said to have laid off at least three of its staff on Wednesday and a fourth worker was told they were at risk, although there were claims up to half of staff members were let go. The abrupt dismissals come months after three warehouse employees were laid off before Christmas.

The company’s web designer, PR agent and ‘search engine optimisation’ employee were among the recent firings. A shocked source told The Sun: ‘There is a terrible air of doom and gloom about the place.’

Another source told The Sun: ‘There wasn’t so much as a Christmas tree or festive decorations in the office. Morale is at rock bottom.’

[From The Daily Mail]

Well, that’s certainly interesting, isn’t it? I always thought James Middleton – noted supplier of Nazi marshmallows – was the black sheep of the family because he has no head for business. But maybe Party Pieces was always something of a shell game. I’m being too harsh, I know – it’s more than possible that Party Pieces was a well-run and profitable business for years and years and because of the changing dynamics of this particular niche market, Party Pieces is failing right now. I wonder if Party Pieces does go under, will royal reporters start telling the truth about the Middleton family’s finances though? They were never as rich as they claimed. Prince William even gave the Middletons a significant chunk of money to buy their upgraded home in Bucklebury.

Middletons on the march! Carole and Michael arrive at Wimbledon for day three of the tennis championships

Photos courtesy of Backgrid, Avalon Red and WENN.

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56 Responses to “The Middleton family’s business, Party Pieces, is apparently firing a lot of employees”

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  1. Osgirl says:

    Damn, Carole has great legs.

    • Iknow says:

      Carole is the Middleton I actually like. I can believe that she encouraged her daughters to aim high in the marriage market and still appreciate that she’s a strong, independent woman who looks amazing!

      • leela says:

        I’ve always wondered about this. For a self-made woman, Carole brought up her children not to practice the values of hardwork, accomplishing/ creating/ building something but to instead value social position – to aim for the “right” marriage. To define their accomplishments, not by their own merit but by the people they marry. One tends to wonder if its some kind of self-loathing. That she hated she had to toil, work hard thus said to herself, her children will never suffer the same fate. Its like another version of the Lori Loughlin type of mothering.

      • Iknow says:

        Leela, at the end of the day, no matter how hardworking Carole is, I can only assume that she worked that hard to ensure her children didn’t have to. I believe that her daughters and son not having “work” is more about her success and status than it is about them. To her she is officially an aristocratic woman.

      • leela says:

        That’ s sad, really – to have no pride in hard work and see it as something your children should not have to do. Again, this has shades of the Lori Loughlin type of mothering – my children should not work hard. She might consider herself an officially aristocratic woman – rest assured though the true blue bloods don’t (she has no title) and will always consider her a royal adjacent-adjacent. Personally, I think it would have been more admirable if Carole instilled industriousness in her children. I don’t care about being considered aristocratic or not. I guess this is why she is looked upon derisively as a social-climber.

    • Momoftwo says:

      That was my first thought too! I’m really envious as mine are terrible

    • 90sgirl says:

      I have NEVER ?believed that business was pulling in the supposed millions reported in press.
      If you read about Kate before she became a daily reported on official girlfriend of Prince William, the reports were NOT that they were massively wealthy. When Kate first went out in London, she was catching buses. Then she got used car. It wasn’t until she got well known and followed daily by press and known solidly as Williams girlfriend, that a new Audi lease (through allegedly William) was arranged.
      She wore freebie clothes from Issa designer , freebie Issa dresses.

      The Middleton holidays were usually borrowed homes of friends and even travel was Easy Jet.
      I never bought the hype about the alleged multimillion dollar business.

      and as the reported alleged 30million or 40 million worth of the business , came from Middleton PR sources, since there are no public records shown, no one has ever really actually known what they made, or make, or what they were worth.

      also according to a old article on the Manor purchase ,even the new home didn’t come about until after Kate married and they still took on a new mortgage to buy the new home and still had a mortgage allegedly on the old home.

      Something about them has never added up financially, IMO.

      • Bohemian Angel says:

        @90sgirl, Uncle Gary supposedly helped them out a lot.

      • Tina says:

        There’s a trust fund in Michael’s family, set up for education and property only. That’s how the children were able to attend Marlborough and they were able to buy a flat in Chelsea for them. Other than that, they were fairly cash-poor in the early days, I agree.

  2. Clare says:

    You know I’m not a Middleton fan, but I find it hard to fault them on this based on the info we have so far – I’d imagine amazon has encroached on a huge chunk of thheir market (who wants to wait 3-5 days for delivery when you can have your plastic cups tomorrow?), not to mention the competition from Etsy sellers, for more personalised stuff. Loads of small businesses like theirs are going out of business or scaling down – I feel bad for the people who’ve spent their lives building them.

    Having said that, all the free publicity has probably kept them profitable way longer than they would otherwise have been – the Middletons will be fine.

    • Enn says:

      I was thinking of Etsy. I have a local party store (3rd generation!) that I use for balloons, paper goods, etc. because I like supporting small businesses, but they don’t have the customization options that an Etsy seller does, and they don’t deliver like Amazon.

    • Shrute’s beet farm says:

      This. Party Pieces has been in business nearly 40 years. Going under now should not be seen as “failure” by anyone. It provided Carole fulfillment and some degree of financial security for a long time. As you say, small businesses everywhere are folding because they can’t compete with major retailers, either on stock or price or shipping time.

      I kind of wonder if Party Pieces isn’t naturally winding down? Carole may be ready for retirement, and none of the kids are likely to keep the family business going. Kate for obvious reasons, James because he has no head for business, and Pippa because she simply doesn’t need to work hard at anything.

      • Jb says:

        This makes sense on a number of levels. lots of grand kids to be involved with, two son in laws with piles of money…and Amazon and Etsy…different world out there.

      • Megan says:

        I’m wondering if Carole is semi-retiring. If so, it would made sense to scale back to just the most profitable products and coast along until she ready to fully retire.

    • Tourmaline says:

      Agree, I can see that mail order party supplies might have been a big business in Party Pieces’ heyday of the 80s and 90s- but the market for that has to have changed dramatically. Kind of surprised they stayed in business for this long.

      • Mumbles says:

        Yeah, maybe back in the day there was a demand for this stuff but between the emergence of huge party supply megastores like Party City and the fact you can get anything on Amazon, doesn’t seem that this is a very viable business. That said I too always thought it was a way for shady Uncle Gary to repatriate/launder some of his money from Casa De Bang Bang.

      • Megan says:

        Also, Millennials are having fewer children than prior generations which means the market is contracting.

    • Chica71 says:

      Brexit.. lots of UK companies laying off in anticipation of coming problems. Overall uncertainty is not good for non-essential goods company at this point.

  3. Enn says:

    Hmmm. You don’t really need separate PR and SEO people if you have one marketing director who can handle both of those duties, but your website designer? That’s a red flag. IMO, you need a dedicated web designer to update your site, troubleshoot, fix what goes wrong with the inevitable upgrades and patches that hosting sites are constantly adding, etc.

    • Lena says:

      I kind of wonder if this couldn’t be something that you outsource because if you have just one person you have a huge problem if he or she is on holidays or ill and there’s a problem. But if you outsource this to a company that doesn’t it for lots of small businesses there’s always someone available.

    • FredsMother says:

      Oooh. Good guidance for me. Just in the process of hiring one firm to overhaul my website.. All of it. Digi-markwting, SEO, Social Media ads, settings. It all gives me heartburn. Dont know if am doing it right but one guy, outsourced is what am doing.

      As for party pieces, I think it might be she’s retiring and restructuring to sell the business. Pippa doesn’t need it and James doesn’t want it.

  4. Kittycat says:

    Businesses unfortunately lay off people all the time.

  5. Redburgandy says:

    Unfortunately during times of political & economic uncertainty businesses especially small ones are usually going to suffer. The BREXIT fallout is causing many companies to lay off people or stop hiring all together. It’s quite sad what is happening in the UK with no resolution in sight.

    I’m sure the Middleton business has gone through some downturns in their 30 year history so I’m willing to bet they’ll ride out this latest storm. It’s the staff however that I feal sorry for.

  6. Annie. says:

    Maybe Mike and Carole want to retire? And they know that none of their daughters will continue with the company… And maybe James doesn’t want to administrate it?
    I don’t know, I don’t trust the Sun. And sometimes, the story is simpler and easier than what is being reported

    • Millenial says:

      I was thinking this as well. They are retirement age. I imagine the business is going through a rough spot, but I also think it coincides nicely with it being time to bow out in general.

    • Ainsley7 says:

      I think this is exactly what is happening. Apparently they are partnering with someone as well. They likely sold the company but are staying affiliated with it. That way the Middletons profit without having to actually run the business themselves. Carol will probably still do little PR things from time to time and such.

  7. Chaine says:

    The piece in the daily Mail said something about a spokes person claiming that there will be an exciting new partnership. I think this means that someone is going to buy them out.

    • Sharon Lea says:

      I missed that story! A new partnership could definitely explain the layoffs. Beli brought up a good point below, that Carole had some interviews recently. Maybe this all ties together.

  8. Loopy says:

    Just how much money did William give…doesnt he have a reputation of being tight fisted…i was his own money from Diana.

  9. Alexandria says:

    I thought it’s time they retired anyway. Two kids married rich. Just sell it off based on branding. She seems keen to look after her grandkids anyway. James can try to marry up and then get into the in law’s company somehow. Problem solved.

    • Olive says:

      maybe James should make like his sisters and look for a wealthy and well-positioned partner and stop trying to be that person himself.

  10. Shilohray says:

    The Middletons are worth 40 million?! Where did this figure come from? Party Pieces is a private limited company which means their accounts are never published. I also don’t think you have to be filthy rich to send your kids to private schools. I know parents of modest means whose kids are attending private schools.

    I just think the media have a habit of inflating the actual worth of famous people. Who really believes Kylie Jenner is worth 1 billion! Or Meghan was worth 5 million!

    • whosays says:

      I don’t where the” Meghan is worth 5 millions” come from. She wasn’t even the lead on a basic cable show .She was comfortable for sure. I need one of her fans to explain that number to me

      • LindaM says:

        I can see where the $5m comes from. $50k an episode for 108 episodes is over $5m gross. She also had other income from the Reitman’s clothing line, Hallmark movies, etc. Even after taxes, with smart investments and sensible living expenses, its possible for her to have amassed several million dollars.

      • Tina says:

        Possible, but unlikely, given her spending on clothing and housing and the fact that she would have had to pay both Canadian and US taxes (equalisation doesn’t work properly if you make more than $110k per year.)

      • starryfish29 says:

        Celebrities make much more on spon-con than people realise, and Meghan was definitely doing spon-con while she was on Suits. People make several grand on a single instagram post, heck Busy Phillips said she made more money from doing sponsored posts on instagram in one year than she did from acting. I have no doubt that Meghan made plenty of money doing that alone. When you factor in her actual Suits salary, syndication money, and other sponsorships, she was doing much better than you might think, and that’s before investments. If you’re not stupid with your money, you can make plenty as a main cast member on a cable show.

    • 90sgirl says:

      That figure came from Middleton PR years ago.
      their business papers have never been made public, no one has ever known what they are really worth.

      I have always believed that the more serious it appeared William was with Kate, the more their PR and some of the British press wanted to make it seem as if they were wealthy.

      When they sold the London flat, or put it up for sale, there were rumours allegedly of something going on.

      • Chrome says:

        Go back to footage of Eugenie and Jack’s wedding. Watch the Middleton’s as they walk to the church – Carole and Mike, Pippa and James, and brother James… and another woman, in blue. Watch Mike weave in and out of that group.

        Now, go back to pictures of Pippa’s wedding, specifically the day before when Mike and the “wedding planner” were at the church. Look at that woman. Look back at the woman in blue. She’s not the wedding planner.

  11. Beli says:

    That might explain the sudden rush of Middleton interviews after years of silence…

    • Lexa says:

      Yup—my first assumption when Carole did those interviews was that they were struggling a bit and/or trying to sell the business to retire.

  12. RoyalBlue says:

    Probably ready to retire so they are looking to sell it to an interested party. The industry has changed over the past two decades and their competition has increased.

    Agreed they were never as rich as speculated as the math never added up. I once posted a link here that explained it but it was deleted so I’ll not say much more.

  13. Becks1 says:

    My guess is that its a combination of factors – Amazon, etsy and other similar sites have probably encroached on PP’s slice of the party supplies business, and Carole is probably ready to stop working, retire, and enjoy life as a grandmother. Doesn’t she have a room at KP? I wouldn’t be surprised if she sort of rotates between there, Pippa’s house and their Bucklebury home on a regular basis.

    I kind of have always enjoyed Carole because she is just so open lol. Like, its just so obvious that she pushed the girls to make “good” marriages. Her social climbing is no secret. And I bet she was a hard worker at Party Pieces. It is kind of odd to me that her hustle does not seem to have passed down to her kids, but oh well.

    (I’m interested to see if the people who slam Amal Clooney for being thirsty and a social climber do the same for Carole….)

    • Tina says:

      @becks1, I think Carole is much worse than Amal. At least Amal hasn’t (as far as I am aware) imported hundreds of birds from France to be shot in an attempt to play royal for a day.

  14. Tourmaline says:

    So did anything ever happen after the DM revelation a month or so ago that James Middleton’s company Boofz (ok I know that is not what it is called but I seriously can’t recall right now) was sending out Nazi themed marshmallows upon request? Or did that thoroughly blow over?

  15. Lady Keller says:

    Seems like a weak story. Their business ran for decades which makes them successful in my eyes. Carole got what she wanted, she played the game well and both of her daughters landed big fish. So in that regard she is a huge success, I think Carole got exactly what she wanted out of life.

  16. Cerys says:

    I feel sorry for the staff if they go out of business. It’s not easy finding another job in the current climate.
    I ordered regularly from Party Pieces when my children were small, before anyone had ever heard of Kate Middleton. They were always very reliable and their stuff was good quality.

  17. Digital Unicorn says:

    Either PP is sold and/or is replaced by something else – the Middletons have never been wealthy. If anyone in that family is worth £40mill its her brother – he made a large fortune when he sold his computer company years ago. The Middletons are lucky to be even called millionaires.

    There were reasons why she gave those interviews late last year – as others have said it was to likely promote the business in order to sell it.

  18. Amelie says:

    I think the Middletons were always well off but not supremely wealthy. They’ve always been comfortable. As for Party Pieces laying off workers, as people have suggested above either they are struggling financially to keep up with tech giants like Amazon where you can order anything or Etsy. Or maybe Michael and Carole are getting ready to retire. How hands on are they anyways? None of their children will continue on with the company so either they fold it or they sell it.

  19. Rina says:

    Does James work? Not specifically related to Party Pieces, but does he have a job?

  20. A says:

    I’ve been wondering about this for a while now. And I’m not surprised they’re going under. With the influx of Amazon and Etsy, there’s not much of a market for something like Party Pieces tbh. I don’t think they’re a shell company or anything, and I’m sure they were doing really well in their early years, and in the early years of Kate’s relationship with William. But beyond that? Probably not.

  21. SpilldatT says:

    Not surprising.

    The Middletons are probably ready to retire. And as everyone has said, business models have changed. And making it 40 years in one thing isn’t really that bad. Considering huge companies like Sears have fallen, why shouldn’t Party Pieces?

    They can retire with what they have, (def. not 40 mill) and live very comfortably, no doubt for the reminder of their lives.

    Apart from James the Nazi Marshmallow kid, the girls are fine, so it’s not like they have to worry about their kids.

    And having Wills as a SIL, will always work in their favour. If nothing else they can easily slum it with Wills & Kate for a place to stay if things get really bad & they loose all their money from closing shop. Which I don’t think they will.

    I do feel bad for the staff, esp. if they have been employed for a while, but they might also be older? But def. not worried about Carole & whats his name Middleton. If anything maybe they will live apart, with Carole moving in closer to Kate or something, since I could never sense a tight marital relationship between the two in recent years, kwim? He always looked like he was just sort of checking in, while she lead the way. That’s not to say he’s a bad husband or father to the kids or anything. Maybe their marriage has run it’s course in some way.

  22. BeanieBean says:

    Seems like those three positions were pretty darned important. Who’s going to pick up their work?

  23. oddly says:

    The company is not a Limited Company, which means their finances can remain private. they can pretend it makes millions and nobody can prove it doesn’t.

    Who in their right mind with warehouses and a dozen or more employees works as an unlimited company. It severly limits their ability to get comprehensive insurance cover . One small accident and they could be liable to pay millions out of their own pockets, potentially taking everything from them including their home. It’s always been shady. If the business goes south and they have significant creditors then this could get very messy and very public.