News, Culture & Society

Resignation of co-founder throws rescue of Ralph & Russo into chaos

Resignation of co-founder and star designer Tamara Ralph throws rescue of Meghan Markle’s dressmaker Ralph & Russo into chaos

The resignation of co-founder and star designer Tamara Ralph has thrown the rescue of Meghan Markle’s dressmaker Ralph & Russo into chaos. 

The brand’s administrators have revealed that a suitor dropped out at the eleventh hour sparking the 39-year-old’s dramatic resignation on May 3. 

Ralph & Russo, the label behind the Duchess of Sussex’s £56,000 engagement dress, collapsed in March with £27.8m debts because of financial mismanagement and the cancellation of glitzy events. 

Fashion faux pas: Tamara Ralph with her co-founder Michael Russo

As part of the sale process, five suitors stepped forward to make firm bids. But the leading bidder dropped out two days before planned completion of a deal – and after desperate staff were told their jobs were about to be saved. Ralph announced her resignation the following day, leaving the joint administrators with a desperate battle to reignite interest in a brand shorn of its star designer. 

In documents published by Companies House this week, they warned Ralph & Russo could be sold piecemeal, or even liquidated. An insider claimed two potential buyers were in ‘final stage talks’, which will conclude ‘either way by early next week’. 

The company collapsed owing just under £1m to Ralph & Russo’s 137 staff, a £23.5m loan to the billionaire property developer Nick Candy, a former shareholder, and £2m to HM Revenues and Customs. The administrators also revealed they are chasing executives, believed to include co-founder Michael Russo, for ‘substantial’ unpaid debts, taken out as directors’ loans. 

The company’s financial difficulties were partly attributable to the ‘removal of substantial cash reserves from the business by way of directors’ loans, which were proving irrecoverable’, they said. Ralph & Russo administrators Begbies Traynor were contacted for comment.