PARTRIDGE Fine Art, the landmark Bond Street dealership in business for more than 100 years, went into administration this week.
MCR partners Andrew Stoneman and Matt Bond have been appointed as joint administrators and are running the firm as normal while actively seeking a buyer for the business, its assets and the lease of the building itself.
The dealership is housed in possibly the grandest building in Bond Street, a purpose-built four-storey listed building called the Palace of the Arts, from where it has supplied the finest art and antiques to the likes of Queen Mary, the Burrell Collection in Glasgow and, perhaps most notably, the British Museum and the Getty Museum in Malibu, California.
The company ran into trouble around five years ago, when then chairman John Partridge unveiled what he dubbed the worst set of trading figures in his 46 years at the helm.
Former auctioneer and ceramics specialist Mark Law, who already ran porcelain specialists Albert Amor, quickly put together a bid to take control of the company. With the backing of a consortium including former Culture secretary David Mellor - a client of Partridge - he formed Amor Holdings, an investment vehicle that bought out the Partridge family in a £14m staggered deal.
Princess Michael of Kent was later appointed president of the company.
Reports indicate that Allied Irish Bank was the main creditor and was offered 65p in the pound to settle the debt on July 17, with Mr Law offering to make up the shortfall from his own funds. The administrators were called in when no deal was struck.
Administrator Andrew Stoneman said: "This is a world famous fine art dealer with a strong and loyal customer base. It is too early to determine the reasons why the company has gone into administration and we are concentrating on saving the business and selling the store as a going concern, thus saving a piece of history as well as the employment of those working there. We are confident that there will be a significant amount of interest."
Although Mr Stoneman could not be drawn on the cause of the firm's failure, general current trading conditions combined with what are thought to be the high costs of running the four-storey building are bound to have taken their toll.