Often in business, the bigger they are, the harder the fall. Steelwork engineers Cleveland Bridge, which gave us architectural marvels such as the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Wembley arch and even the Shard in central London, has suddenly collapsed into administration.
Built to collapse
Cleveland Bridge was created in 1877, at the height of one of the UK’s great industrial revolutions during the late Victorian era. It was a business which was born out of the white heat of that revolution, cited as an innovator in steelworks. If you’ve ever gone to Wembley Stadium for a football match, visited Sydney Harbour for a holiday or ventured around the Shard by London Bridge, you’ll have seen their handiwork for yourself.
But just because a business has achieved great things before doesn’t guarantee its safety, especially in the current climate. As it turns out, Cleveland Bridge was having financial issues as recently as late 2020, when the business was finalising its accounts. A Sri Lankan project which was put on ice hit Cleveland Bridge’s finances unexpectedly, before one of its chief executives quit his post in June 2021.
Insolvency filing was the next development to emerge from the business before administration proceedings began in earnest. The firm which designed some of the most memorable examples of modern urban architecture in the last generation now looks set to fizzle out.
Too big to sustain
Size can be a benefit, so long as revenues are flowing through and debts don’t become overwhelming or risk stifling growth or investment opportunities. Having a history spanning 144 years gave Cleveland Bridge a long log book of successful endeavours, but its sudden and unexpected demise reflects the globalised nature of the industry it operated in.
Potentially by spreading itself too thinly or by depending on a handful of projects coming good to ensure its survival, Cleveland Bridge may have sealed its fate and stopped itself continuing to be a success for another 144 years. That doesn’t mean the right buyer can’t turn things around, or find assets to salvage, when the time comes, through asset stripping.
When Cleveland Bridge collapsed, it closed a chapter on generations of work which changed the face of urban environments in not just the UK, but as far afield as Australia. In this post-Brexit era, in which COVID-19 has taken the UK’s economic chess pieces and scattered them all over the board, collapses like Cleveland Bridge are a rare find. If you keep your eyes turned to the skies, by subscribing to Administration List, there’s no reason why you can’t spot such collapses falling out of the skies and ensure they fall straight into your lap.