Weinstock: The Life and Times of Britain's Premier Industrialist

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9780002556767: Weinstock: The Life and Times of Britain's Premier Industrialist

The life and times of one of the most pivotal (and private) figures in Britain’s manufacturing industry throughout the political and economic upheavals of the last 30 years.

Knighted by a Labour government in 1970 and ennobled by Mrs Thatcher in 1980, Arnold Weinstock has achieved a consistent level of business success without rival in post-war Britain.

Now Alex Brummer and Roger Cowe, Guardian journalists who have closely followed his career for many years, tell the story and give their clear-eyed assessment of the man who, as managing director of GEC from 1963 to 1996, steered the company through financial and industrial turbulence to make it one of Britain’s largest and most stable businesses of the post-Cold War era. Lord Weinstock has also been at the centre of government/industrial relations throughout that time, dealing with both Labour and Tory governments at the highest level.

The authors explore what makes Weinstock tick. What are the origins of his ruthless dedication to efficiency, his drive for control, and his highly personalised style of management, exemplified by the famously no-nonsense ‘Weinstock memoranda’ in which he forcefully – sometimes ferociously – outlined his views on managerial accountability? As one colleague comments, ‘He had the tremendous ability to lift people up and make them feel they could go and do something superhuman when they left the room – those who hadn’t been murdered, I mean.’

The son of a poor immigrant Polish-Jewish tailor, Weinstock was orphaned at an early age and became a wartime evacuee. From the LSE he progressed to the Admiralty, where he was in effect writing Cabinet papers in his early twenties, then to the property world and the electronics and defence industry. Here he developed the concept of the industrial conglomerate and perfected the art of the hostile takeover. In a Britain which has put so much emphasis on the short term, his has been a career devoted to long-term excellence. This riveting account sets his achievements – and his failures – in their rightful context.

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From the Back Cover:

"It should be clearly understood that we are engaged in industrial warfare. We must grapple with our competitors in the UK, a task which is, in the case of many products, bad enough, and with our competitors in overseas markets, which is a damn sight worse. We will either gain victories or be vanquished, and, in the end, it is a question of survival for the Company as a whole, for individual units of the Company, and for individual managers in the trading units.

There is a wider aspect of this matter. The measures I have been pressing for so long as required of you by the GEC are the same as those which the industry of the UK must universally adopt if the country is to continue as an industrial power with a high standard of living. As in all forms of war, we cannot afford delay, and excuses for lost battles will not regain lost territory."
ARNOLD WEINSTOCK, 'memorandum to GEC managers, February 1965.'

Arnold Weinstock has been pivotal (yet very private) figure in Britain's manufacturing industry over the last three decades. Knighted by a Labour government in 1970 and ennobled by Mrs Thatcher in 1980, he has achieved a consistent level of business success without rival in post-war Britain.

Now Alex Brummer and Roger Cowe, 'Guardian' journalists who have closely followed his career for many years, tell the story and give their clear-eyed assessment of the man who, as managing director of GEC from 1963 to 1996, steered the company through financial and industrial turbulence to make it one of Britain's largest and most stable businesses of the post-Cold War era. Lord Weinstock has also been at the centre of government/industrial relations throughout that time, dealing with both Labour and Tory governments at the highest level.

The authors explore what makes Weinstock tick. What are the origin of his ruthless dedication to efficiency, his drive for control, and his highly personalised style of management, exemplified by the famously no-nonsense 'Weinstock memoranda' in which he forcefully – sometimes ferociously – outlined his views on managerial account-ability? As one colleague comments, 'He had the tremendous ability to lift people up and make them feel they could go and do something superhuman when they left the room – those who hadn't been murdered, I mean.'

The son of a poor immigrant Polish-Jewish tailor, Weinstock was orphaned at an early age and became a wartime evacuee. From the LSE he progressed to the Admiralty, where he was in effect writing Cabinet papers in his early twenties, then to the property world and the electronics and defence industry. Here he developed the concept of the industrial conglomerate and perfected the art of the hostile take-over. In a Britain which has put so much emphasis on the short term, his has been a career devoted to long-term excellence. This riveting account sets his achievements – and his failures – in their rightful context.

About the Author:

Alex Brummer and Roger Cowe are the authors of Hanson: A Biography (1994). Alex Brummer is Financial Editor of the Guardian, where he writes a daily column. Roger Cowe is a prize-winning journalist and editor of The Guardian Guide to the UK’s Top Companies.

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