Economics and Business

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Ferranti: A History

Volume 3 Management, mergers and fraud 1987–1993

John Wilson

The final volume of this detailed history of Ferranti covers the last seven years of its operating existence, starting with the 1987 merger with ISC and culminating in a humiliating demise consequent upon GEC’s 1993 decision to withdraw its bid for what by then was an unprofitable rump. Extensive attention is paid to the way in which ISC evolved under James Guerin’s stewardship, providing insights into the shady world of international covert arms dealing. While in 1987 Ferranti purchased what was regarded as a highly profitable defence electronics business, by 1989 it was apparent that ISC’s net worth was marginal, creating an accounting hole in what by then was Ferranti International from which it never recovered, in spite of highly imaginative strategies enacted by a new chief executive, Eugene Anderson. The book provides detailed insights into international mergers, corporate governance issues and defence electronics that highlight the dangers associated with competing in one of the fastest-moving industries of that era.

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John Wilson

This chapter tracks the final 18 months of a business that was slowly fading into corporate obscurity, holed fatally by a massive fraud and victim of a one-sided deal with its bankers that resulted in the disposal of most of its profitable divisions. GEC’s Arnold Weinstock played a key role in the final stages, but ultimately withdrew its offer to buy the remaining activities, forcing Anderson to concede defeat. Although Ferranti disappeared as trading operation in December 1993, the name lived on in various management buy-outs and a pension scheme that ironically has continued to flourish.