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Definition: Weinstock, Arnold Weinstock, Baron from Chambers Biographical Dictionary


English industrial executive

Born in London, he gained a degree in statistics from the University of London. He worked at the Admiralty from 1939 to 1945, was engaged in finance and property development (1947-54) and then entered the radio and allied industries. He joined GEC in 1961, becoming managing director from 1963 to 1996, during which time he greatly developed the power and influence of the company through a series of takeovers.

Summary Article: Weinstock, Arnold
From The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

English industrialist. Weinstock joined Radio & Allied Holdings in 1954, which merged into the General Electric Co. (GEC) in 1961. As managing director of GEC (1963–96), renamed Marconi in 1999, he built the company into a major capital goods conglomerate, with interests ranging from telecommunications to aerospace, from electronics to defence, through a series of giant takeovers. It was the epitome of prime minister Harold Wilson's promised technological revolution in the 1960s to modernize British industry.

From the mid-1980s poor financial performance led to claims that the group was losing its way; there were a number of high-profile disasters, including the failure of the Nimrod airborne early warning system, which overran its budget by millions of pounds. Although GEC acquired the semiconductor capability parts of Ferranti in 1990 and Vickers Shipbuilding and Engineering (VSEL) in 1995, it faced fierce competition from large US defence conglomerates. Weinstock stepped down in 1996 (his only son, a company executive, having died that year at the age of 44), but remained chair emeritus of GEC. Knighted in 1970, he was created a peer in 1980 and sits as an independent in the House of Lords.

Weinstock was born in north London to elderly Polish-Jewish immigrant parents. He was orphaned as a child as a result of illness, and lived with his elder brothers, before being evacuated during World War II to Warwickshire with other pupils from the Stoke Newington Central School. He subsequently gained matriculation and graduated from the University of London with a degree in statistics, after which he became a junior administrative officer at the Admiralty.

From 1947–54, Weinstock worked in finance and property development with a group of private companies. He joined his father-in-law's business, Radio & Allied Holdings, a manufacturer of television and radio receivers, in 1954 becoming managing director. When the company merged with GEC in 1961, he was appointed a director and then managing director from 1963.

He started a programme of cost cutting and tight financial controls at GEC, which was to rationalize the whole UK electrical engineering industry. Although he later decentralized management, the business units were still expected to report to him directly through the system of financial ratios designed in the 1960s. With the implicit support of the Labour government of 1964–70, GEC made successful bids for Associated Electrical Industries (AEI) in 1967 and English Electric (which had bought Marconi in 1946) in 1968, giving the company almost 50% of the UK turbo-generator business.

GEC continued to expand with the acquisition of Yarrow Shipbuilders in 1974 and Avery in 1979. Then, in 1985, Weinstock initiated one of the most drawn-out company takeovers when he launched a £1.3 billion bid for Plessey Communications to sustain GEC's position in the world markets, following criticisms that his company was sitting on a ‘cash mountain’. The Ministry of Defence (a major GEC customer) argued against the merger on the grounds that the two companies were the two largest defence suppliers in the UK, and it was rejected after being referred to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission. Having subsequently formed the GPT joint telecoms venture in 1987 with Plessey, which had unsuccessfully attempted to put together a consortium bid for GEC itself, GEC then launched a successful joint £1.7 billion bid (increased to £2 billion) with Siemens of West Germany for Plessey in 1988. That same year Weinstock formed another transnational alliance, this time with Compagnie General D' Electricite (CGE) to form the power generation and transport arm, GEC ALSTHOM.

In 1998 he bought a 29.9% stake in the quoted antique dealer Mallett for about £5 million.


Weinstock, Arnold

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