Voluntary arrangement fails to save Masterton from inexorable slide into the abyss.
It is a year, almost to the day, since I visited the Bacton Gas Terminal in North Norfolk to see Masterton demonstrating its demolition prowess in a challenging and spark-free environment.
The resulting article never made it into print, partly because we were never able to get an approval from the client to clear the photos, but also because the alarm bells were already ringing.
One of the first questions I was asked once I had made it through the Fort Knox-like site security was “have you heard any rumours about Masterton” quickly followed by “what is everyone saying”. It was clear from the outset that all was not well at the heart of what was once one of the most revered demolition names north of the Border.
If those initial questions set alarm bells ringing, then the company’s actions over the next year or so would have made Big Ben seem positively hushed by comparison. CVs from company employees seeking to flee the sinking ship began to circulate in increasing numbers, and the rumour mill slipped into overdrive. A flat refusal to speak to or engage with the press is a tell-tale and tacit smoke that proves somewhere, something is on fire. When the company finally sought a Company Voluntary Arrangement in August last year, no-one in the wider demolition community seemed even remotely surprised.
Experience suggests that voluntary arrangements generally have one of two outcomes: they either buy the company sufficient time to regroup and re-emerge leaner and fitter; or they merely delay an inevitable demise. From the very beginning, Masterton seemed destined for the latter route.
It could all have been so different. Back in November 2012, with the industry still wracked by recession, we reported that the company was heading for a record turnover and had just moved into a sparkly new headquarters in Grangemouth. It reportedly had a strong forward order book, had taken on more staff, and had even set its sights on overseas expansion through a joint venture with parent company CA Blackwell.
Today, as the administrators begin their post-mortem on the lifeless corpse of this once great name, such blind ambition in the midst of a global economic downturn now seems like folly.