Carole Middleton’s cover story about Party Pieces’ collapse keeps changing

Carole Middleton is in a full-blown panic. The British media is openly reporting on the “malicious poster campaign” happening in Bucklebury, all tied to the collapse of the Middleton family’s business, Party Pieces. In May, Party Pieces went bankrupt and it was sold to millionaire James Sinclair for £180,000. Because of the way the bankruptcy was structured, Sinclair is not on the hook to pay off Party Pieces’ extensive debt. PP defrauded banks, vendors, creditors and the government for over £2.6 million. Those people – many of them small businesses – are justifiably angry and they want to be paid, especially given that many of them extended credit to Carole personally because she is the mother of “the future queen.” This is what the poster campaign is about – someone has put posters up all around Bucklebury, saying that Carole needs to pay her debts. Conveniently, the Telegraph spoke to James Sinclair and he’s trying to provide a huge amount of cover for Carole. Some highlights:

Sinclair was approached by Carole six months ago: Before going any further, he was asked to sign an NDA – not unusual in the world of acquisitions, but a sign, perhaps, of who he was about to meet. Fifteen minutes later, he found himself on a Zoom call with Carole Middleton. “Because of my own background I instinctively understood her mindset,” he says. “There was a genuine connection.” An indefatigable 38-year-old known as Mr Partyman, Sinclair seemed the perfect person to take on Party Pieces, the business Carole started at her kitchen table, which after 30 years was on the brink of falling into administration. She had stepped away in April, reportedly selling her 49 per cent stake, ready to retire and focus on being a grandmother.

Carole really doesn’t want to take responsibility: “Carole had reached her mid-60s and quite rightly wanted to spend more time with her family,” says Sinclair. “When she handed Party Pieces over to investors and shareholders, it was in textbook condition; a really nice company that was regularly making a profit of £1m a year from a £3-£5m turnover.” Carole and her husband Michael felt they had secured the future of the firm that they had worked hard to create. But things started to go downhill. “Unfortunately the investors put into place the wrong team with the wrong strategy,” says Sinclair. “Frugality and getting a tangible return on every single cost is a big part of the entrepreneurial mindset, because it’s hard; only five per cent of businesses get past the first 10 years. Mistakes were made.”

The catalogue: “Party Pieces used to publish a catalogue three or four times a year and that gave it a legacy feel – the new owners axed it, which was short-sighted. It’s an old-school concept but because it was so unusual it made the company stand out – and it worked. We will definitely start printing it again, with our new additions.”

The international rollout: The pandemic had hit the company hard. Then came an international rollout in the US, the Middle East and Europe, which stretched budgets further. By late 2022 Carole realised something was going badly wrong and tried to salvage what she could. Despite her best efforts it wasn’t enough. “We were trying to do a solvent sale but it wasn’t possible. We bought it out of administration and as a result, creditors won’t get paid although Carole was desperately trying to avoid that happening,” Sinclair says.

The poster campaign: Weeks later, the Middletons have become the targets of a vicious campaign in their village of Bucklebury, Berkshire, where they bought a Grade II-listed Georgian manor house in 2012. Posters have been put up on trees and lampposts around their home. The Princess of Wales’s younger brother, James, who lives nearby, is said to have been seen taking them down, with rumours that disgruntled suppliers who were left out of pocket after the Party Pieces sale could be behind them.

Sinclair defends Carole: Sinclair feels hugely for Carole, whom he is quick to point out “was not captain of the ship on its downfall – she was, though, the lifeboat trying to save it…I don’t think it’s Carole’s fault,” he says over the phone. “She sold half the business at 65 years old to an investment firm and in my view they ruined it. They got her in when things looked like curtains and for six months she tried to save it – she just wanted to sell her business and retire and I feel like she’s being blamed for [what is] other people’s fault. She ran that for three decades on her own. She’s obviously not a wally.”

Carole didn’t get a fat check: Sadly, Sinclair says, “lots of people have come off with some financial pain”. “But Carole didn’t get any of the administration proceeds. She’s not got a big fat cheque for selling her business.”

Sinclair loves the Windsors: “I love the Royal family; they are great for Britain. It gives us a USP and they work really hard,” he says. “On the whole they’re a great bunch of people, especially Wills. They might live in enormously grand, if draughty, houses, but let’s be honest, they don’t own their lives.”

[From The Telegraph]

So, the cover story is that 68-year-old Carole handed PP to “investors” three years ago (2020? The middle of the pandemic??), the investors crashed PP, Carole stepped back into management in late 2022, only for PP to collapse by May of this year. And the whole time, during this three-year “step-back” period, Carole was still the public face of the company, she was still on PP’s Instagram and being sent to New Jersey to promote PP. No, sorry, I’m not buying Sinclair’s cover story. I get why he’s caping for Carole, he’s protecting his investment and what is now part of HIS brand. But Carole’s dumbf–k cover story makes no sense, and the financials make zero sense. PP was never that profitable, and Carole has been lying for years, just like she lied to creditors, vendors and banks.

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Photos courtesy of Backgrid, Cover Images, Party Pieces’ IG.

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71 Responses to “Carole Middleton’s cover story about Party Pieces’ collapse keeps changing”

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  1. Em says:

    Mr Sinclair going out of his way to specifically praise william even though Kate is a member of the royal family shows that the Middleton’s have lost favour with William and are trying to gather favor by kissing his ass. Also the fact the he won’t do anything to help with debts and is allowing these stories run without having it pulled.

    • Campbell says:

      It feels like this guy thought he bought a front seat into the RF and he’s afraid it’s falling apart.

  2. Carobell says:

    Could I believe that at one point in time, Party Pieces was a moderately successful Mom and Pop shop selling mail order party supplies? Sure, I lived through the 80s and 90s and literally mailed in postal money orders to buy things. But successful enough once the internet took off and our modes of shopping changed? Absolutely not.
    It might have started out as a real business but once they made it to the big leagues of actually social climbing, they either greatly inflated its value as part of the embiggening or allowed the dodgy uncle access to do whatever he was doing in exchange for money.

  3. Smart&Messy says:

    Is it possible that an apparently successful businessman like Sinclair could be duped the same way the small vendors had been? By the smokescreen of being royal adjecent. One would think you can’t become that wealthy as a gullible idiot. OR Sinclair also got wealthy by navigating the upper shelves of the British class system, only this time he was out of the loop about Carol’s/the Middleton’s/Kate’s impending downfall.

    • seaflower says:

      It’s entirely possible he didn’t do heaps of due diligence short of “I’m not paying any debts” and didn’t realize the debts were to small working class businesses. He’d be pretty stupid, but it’s happened to businesses before.

    • Eurydice says:

      I don’t think he was duped at all. The creditors were already screwed as soon as the company went bankrupt. He came in after the fact and scooped up the company without any debts for just a few hundred thousands.

      • Digital Unicorn says:

        Yeah – he got the company on the cheap, esp when you consider the debts.

        This is just damage control from him as he doesn’t want the bad PR to affect his attempts to trade under the name. I suspect that he might eventually merge it with his own business at some point, esp if the bad PR continues.

      • Eurydice says:

        @Digital Unicorn – It was a failure and nobody else wanted it and it doesn’t seem necessary to his current business – basically, as a business, it wasn’t even worth what he paid for it. But Carole has been peddling royal access since day one and even the creditors she screwed were willing to keep extending so they could keep the door open.

        This may be damage control for a legitimate business, but my thought is he’s propping up his bet on royal access. If it doesn’t work, he’s not out all that much money.

      • Smart&Messy says:

        Eurydice, I agree that he is propping up his bet on royal access. The problem is that due diligence should go beyond reading the Daily Fail. He was out of the loop about Carol’s real situation with Peg and the Windsors.

      • Eurydice says:

        @Smart&Messy – I can’t get into his head, but maybe he was counting on the fantasy of W&K’s happy marriage. It’s not just the DM that’s been promoting that.

      • Jenn says:

        Yes, Eurydice—I just read these numbers, so I don’t think I’m making them up: £180k for the entire business, no debt (for Sinclair). A bargain, considering the business is worth -1.9mil. (Not sure who is on the hook for the 2.1 million debt? Even I’m stressed out now.)

  4. Mslove says:

    I was going to say it’s not a good look for Pegs to have grifting in-laws, but then I remembered his entire family are grifters. It’s normal grifting behavior to him, I guess.

    • Smart&Messy says:

      Just wait for the articles about Peg being the biggest victim in this. He has cut them off completely and the fact that this story was not only made public, but now deliberatly brought back to the limelight is evidence of him wanting to bury the Midds completely. They are Kate’s only support and beside being his kids’ mom, Kate has nothing going for her but the honest middle class roots. Abuser playbook page 16, pragraph 7: cut off victim’s support system. Take away all credibility in the community.
      Peg: check, check

  5. Elizabeth Kerri Mahon says:

    If Carole sold her 49% of Party Pieces (which makes her not even a majority shareholder), who owned the other 51%? Was it the investment firm? Uncle Bang-Bang Gary? Kate, Pippa, and James?

    • Nic919 says:

      Sinclair is lying about that. The companies house filing show that Carole and Mike together had 500 out of 993 shares, each having 250 shares.

      The other directors are not family.

  6. equality says:

    Reads like when the RR reports on RF finances. Everything is vague and in terms that make it hard to follow the money trail.

  7. Becks1 says:

    This is definitely clean up on aisle 5 – he gives the game away in the last part, about how much he loves the Windsors and how great the royals are for the country and how hard they work (lol.) He’s hoping to be rewarded for this down the line with royal connections and invitations.

    The part about the catalogs makes no sense to me – about how the catalogs had a sense of nostalgia….people throw catalogs away as soon as they get them. The only one I look at is Lands End bc they usually have a good discount code included.

    • Digital Unicorn says:

      I periodically get catalogues from Boden – i don’t look at them and they go straight into the recycle bin. I’m not really a browser types of person – I will go look for something that i want.

    • Miranda says:

      Right? Who the hell is clamoring for a return to catalog shopping?! Even elderly people probably don’t want that. Hell, back in the early 2000s, my 90-something grandma insisted on finally learning to use a computer for the sole purpose of online shopping! There have got to be better ways to stand out than a dead tree shopping experience, but I guess it makes perfect sense, coming from a man who apparently believes that his country still needs a figurehead with magical blood to impress the peasants.

    • HeatherC says:

      The only one I look at is See’s Candies haha. I rarely purchase anything but the pictures are delicious, it’s like window shopping for those trying to maintain a weight loss 🙂

    • Smart&Messy says:

      Yes, it pretty much sounds like Sinclair is a Windsor chess piece. I do believe he will be rewarded for this, as agreed. He helped open the can of worms. The part that baffles me is the previous investors. Why are they taking this public mud slinging? Everyone is pointing at them. They are not named here, but they were in the previous round of Carole shaming articles. It can’t be good to their professional reputation.

    • SarahCS says:

      Every time one comes through the door it goes straight into the recycling and I make a mental note that this time I’ll log in and ask them to stop sending paper copies (I never do). Although the Boden one often has a discount code and free delivery.

    • Eurydice says:

      Yes, there’s no other reason why Sinclair should/would be the one to do clean up, he’s just the guy who bought the dregs. For him, it was a inexpensive deal – people have paid a lot more for royal access and he didn’t even have to deliver shopping bags full of cash.

    • BeanieBean says:

      I’ve been getting a lot of catalogs lately, most likely because I shop online (way too much!). What I find interesting is getting catalogs from places I peruse online–not places I buy from, just sites that I look at. Or, they’re just doing the name-list rental thing. More for the recycle bin. They really need to save their money & resources.

  8. EasternViolet says:

    Are there any images of the poster itself online, has the internet been scrubbed of them by…. KP?

  9. JT says:

    “PP was regularly making a profit of £1m a year from a £3-£5m turnover.” Bullshit. Not even in its heyday do I believe that a cheap party supply company made that much money.

    • Nic919 says:

      There are no public filings to confirm this. He’s either making it up or pulling from unaudited financial statements.

    • Carobell says:

      Right, like did they make enough money to live a nice life? Sure. Did they make millions of pounds of profit? No.

      • MaryContrary says:

        And “nice life” but not enough for the London flat, big country house, half share in a race horse, all the elaborate vacations . . . their finances were always shady as hell.

    • Smart&Messy says:

      Is it even possible to make £1m on a £3-5mill turnover? I know it depends on the sector, and they probably had their junk made in Asian sweatshops, but they had other costs too. Wages, facility upkeep, the small vendors that serviced them, marketing, online presence maintenance etc. Anyway my guess would be a 10% margin tops!

      Edited to add: I just remembered the GDPR issue. They might have counted selling data as part of that profit before 2018. But that all went to shit, as we all know.

      • Sunday says:

        You’re onto something with the GDPR thing, I’m sure that’s part of it. I’m convinced that Kate’s survey was all about data harvesting too. These people are all about bots, troll accounts, digital manipulation; someone at KP fancies themselves a techie.

    • The Hench says:

      Yes, that was my reaction. Making a million on a £3m turnover in a business like this seems highly doubtful – especially once Amazon entered the market.

      Also some deliberate obfuscation going on. Sinclair says Carole only owned a minority 49% stake. Companies House says she and Michael Middleton owned 500 out of 993 shares (noted by @Nic919 above) so that’s a 50.4% stake giving them control.

      Given Carole had 250 shares personally, her stake was actually only 25.2% if Sinclair was interested in being accurate – which he isn’t.

  10. Nice try Carole this cover story is garbage as are you that and a fraud who didn’t give a shit about the little people you didn’t pay back. Sell your house and pay the people you owe then maybe just maybe you will get some respect back. Won’t hold my breath waiting for you to do the right thing.

    • Harper says:

      Don’t forget she even stiffed Lord Someone Or Other from whom she was renting her chic office barn. He was quoted as being quite piqued to be let down by her. CarolE’s grift was spread across all classes.

    • Smart&Messy says:

      Sell your house, unless it’s not in your name.

      • BeanieBean says:

        How the heck are they going to maintain that having sold their bankrupt business? Are we meant to believe they socked away a lot of money & made good investments? The way they spent money?

      • Smart&Messy says:

        BeanieBean, it is also a good question. How are they going to maintain their lifestyle and the big house with royal-worthy security? I just can’t believe that William would outright buy them a mansion and put it in their name. I think it’s in his name or some company the royals own. I can see there’s another post up about the Midds, so it looks like it’s open season on them. William wants bad PR for Kate’s family. I hope he goes far enough to have a book written about their shady finances and the way they duped him.

  11. Concern Fae says:

    The Middletons probably did have a successful business, but not the brains to remake it for the internet age. They could have just allowed themselves to be bought out by some larger company a while back, but they needed to keep up the appearances of being terribly wealthy and successful for the media. Now they are screwed.

    It’s really amazing William couldn’t find anyone but Kate willing to marry him.

  12. Nic919 says:

    The limited liability holdings company was created in September 2019 with Mike and Carole having the shares. There were three directors added in October 2019. Mike and Carole had 500 shares in total of 993 so over 50%. Financials were not filed until 2021 showing debt at that time.

    So Sinclair is simply saying things that aren’t true. Companies house is publicly available which is where I got my info.

    The comment about saying the business was viable is not based on information available to the public.

    • kirk says:

      Wonder if it’s possible to see if the profit Sinclair talks about is gross or net, “a really nice company that was regularly making a profit of £1m a year from a £3-£5m turnover.”

      Either way, it’s weird the profit percentage fluctuates that much regardless of whether turnover (sales) is £3m or £5m. Would think if you’re getting £1m on £3m, you should be earning ~£1.67m on £5m.

    • Nic919 says:

      The filing in 2021 shows the company is in debt by then. There isn’t anything publicly filed prior to that so his numbers are not taken from a source that can be verified.

  13. kirk says:

    Obfuscation is the order of the day. IF Carole sold her stake several years ago, what was she doing last year trying to expand to eastern U.S. selling Party Pieces through NJ Saker ShopRite stores? Not unheard of for investors to retain prior owners as consultants for a period, but seems weird to use them as face of expansion unless prior owner is still invested. Sinclair the royalist purchased business assets period. He may or may not have had choice in deal structure acquiring out of “administration”, but it’s hard to believe UK bankruptcy court would impede a business sale in which the buyer assumes prior business debts.

    • Smart&Messy says:

      Is it possible that Carol paid ShopRite – deepening her debt – to display her shit in 3-4 stores and let her take some photos so she can create the illusion of a growing – or at least stable – business?

  14. The Hench says:

    This isn’t the defence CarolE thinks it is. Even if we take this story at face value, does she really want her line to be “despite still owning the majority of the company and being actively involved as the face of its overseas expansion, I handed the whole thing over to some investors and then took absolutely no notice of what they were doing until – to my utter surprise – I discovered they had sunk my business.”??

    • BeanieBean says:

      This is basically what happened to Betsey Johnson. I listened to the Celebrity Memoir Book Club episode recently; she built her own business from the ground up & ran it successfully for 30 years. She sold it to investors & they tanked it within a year. They knew better than the company founder, apparently.

  15. Harper says:

    I read the whole article online and I knew it was venturing into tall tales territory when it said the Princess of Wales worked as a project manager there until her wedding. I literally cackled out loud. Manager of what? Lunch and break times?

    At the end of the article there is extensive space given to how this dude entered the party business, including the origins of his decades-old magic trick act. He sounds a little irked that CarolE still won’t give him access to the family and invite him as the entertainment for one of their birthday parties.

    Also, saying CarolE came in and tried to save the company? Reads to me like her idea of saving the company was calling up the vendors and personally guaranteeing the extended credit, which is exactly the reason why all those vendors are angry about being stiffed and are putting up posters.

    • Smart&Messy says:

      When Kate was hyped as the next Mozart of photography, they said she was responsible for taking photos of the goods PP sold, no?

      Yeah, she probably never set foot in any PP facility, but her one other job at Jigsaw also sounded like bullshit so they had to make something up.

    • Belli says:

      That’s so funny. Even at the height of “selling Kate” before the wedding, they only ever said she was a photographer for Party Pieces, nothing more.

    • notasugarhere says:

      Kate wasn’t the photographer, the Midds lied about that too.

      All photography is credited to Millie Pilkington. You know, the one with the wedding photo business W&K helped launch by using her for their private wedding reception photos? The one who did official portraits of some of them recently?

      Keeping Millie paid and hyped via royal connection keeps her silent about what really went on.

    • AC says:

      Project Manager?.. ok.. LOLZ

    • Lisa R says:

      Kate was the worst photographer. The photos that she posted of Charlotte were so inappropriate. I would gasp every time I saw one. I assumed she did not have them pre-approved by BP because they should have stopped them from being posted.

  16. Ohwell says:

    This guy wants proximity to the BRF. So, he is trying to take one for him team.

  17. Jenn says:

    I do have nostalgia for catalogues, actually! I wouldn’t shop out of one, but they’re nice to look at, if I have the time. Unfortunately, the last time I looked at the printed word was during a California power outage. For once I was GLAD to have a stack of unread New Yorkers.

    I think the mistake was attempting to launch the brand in the U.S. in 2022. In the best of times the concept of “nice” disposable party stuff is aspirational and cheesy, but launching so close to an economic recession is verging on weird and tone-deaf. And she isn’t competing with Party City or The Dollar Store; her competition is Target. Target!!! She’s at the age to want to cash out and retire—great!—so, not a great time to start gambling on an international launch. It is all very weird. If you told me this was all a money-laundering front, I would not be shocked.

  18. Jenn says:

    Sorry, one more comment. Holy crap James Sinclair is young. Like, I’d read he was 38, but he really does look like a very cute, happy baby. Anyway, he’s a serial entrepreneur explicitly in the Nostalgia/Camp business; he takes brands when the writing is on the wall and… keeps the party going, if you will, Weekend-at-Bernie’s-style. So he and Carole probably discussed how to wring the last bit of value out of the brand before setting fire to it. Honestly that’s my dream job—getting millennials into Red Lobster, I mean. RIP Party Pieces 🙁 (the fact that this is news at all must be mortifying to the BRF)

    • BlueNailsBetty says:

      Lol I just looked at his website and he prominently has “no sleazy sales” on it. Like, my dude, getting in bed with the Middletons and attempting to get in bed with the royals is the very definition of sleazy.

  19. Jaded says:

    Where’s Uncle Hookers-n-Blow in all of this? He’s usually flapping his gums to the world about the Wails and Midds and how he despises the Sussexes, but he’s gone radio silence since the PP business folded. I wonder if he lost a ton of money supporting a loss leader and is ignoring them? It was clear that he was the ATM machine for the family for a long time. Things that make you go hmmmm….

  20. tamsin says:

    It’s hard to imagine in the first place that a company like PP would make millions of dollars. It seems they sold more pricey items after Kate became Duchess of Cambridge. I was always under the impression that William probably paid for the security features of the Middleton house so that he and Kate could visit. It seems implausible that he would buy a house outright for his in-laws and put it in their name. But wouldn’t the ownership of the house be a matter of public record? How does this work in the UK?

    • Nic919 says:

      The security features weren’t paid by William but by the taxpayer because Kate was there a lot and especially with George as a baby. And when she visits the town will know because there is at least once ambulance on reserve for her.

      William is said to have provided some money when they moved to their current location from the smaller home they had until after the engagement.

  21. Penny says:

    I can imagine this is going to balloon now, with creditors from Boomf coming out of the woodwork as well. Not to mention private people like dressmaker Lindka Cierach that was stiffed by Carole even before the wedding, and the woman Pippa never paid for a craft item she commissioned (which was revealed on mumsnet). The entitlement sseems to go deep here, and the potential for an expose huge.

  22. AC says:

    Many of us(who has an analytical mind 🙂) have actually been suspicious about their business model for years as it was questionable. Even if I looked at the math, it never added up . They were definitely protected as there were hardly any story about their business. Interesting how it’s now being Accelerated.

  23. sparrow says:

    “They don’t own ther lives.” So true. Whatever we think of the BRF, they are goldfish in a bowl. i was thinking this when kate was at the rugby and being photo’d throughout; so, so glad not to live like that. Her mother ran a naff company, and now sits back while others count their losses.