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Arnold Weinstock

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Biography

Arnold Weinstock was born on July 29, 1924, in the London suburb of Stoke Newington, the last of six children of Polish immigrants. Orphaned at the age of 10, he was brought up by an elder brother who was a hairdresser. He received a degree from the London School of Economics and began his business career in real estate.

In 1949 he married Netta Sobell, whose father took him into his radio and television manufacturing company, Radio and Allied. He quickly came to dominate the company, taking it public in 1958 and making him and his father-in-law millionaires. In 1961 he acquired the much bigger but poorly managed General Electric Company (no relation to the United States company of the same name) and moved to improve profitability. As managing director of General Electric from 1963 to 1996, Lord Weinstock led the company as it grew into Britain's largest industrial conglomerate, with products ranging from household appliances to weapons systems, sales of $16 billion a year, profits of $1.5 billion and nearly $5 billion in cash reserves.

In 1967, he bought Associated Electrical Industries. The next year, Lord Weinstock took control of English Electric, another electrical engineering company. At 44, he was running Britain's biggest industrial company, with nearly a quarter of a million employees. Lord Weinstock gave his managers considerable autonomy while monitoring their performance closely.

In 1996, Lord Weinstock, then 72, was persuaded to step down after the death of his son, Simon, who he had hoped would succeed him. He was succeeded by George Simpson, later Lord Simpson, who promised fast growth. But five years later, in September 2001, Lord Simpson was ousted after the company, now renamed Marconi, forecast a substantial loss and acknowledged $6 billion in debt and after the company's stock price had tumbled to 30 cents a share from $18 the previous year.

Lord Weinstock's wealth, once estimated at $750 million and largely invested in the company, shrank to a fraction of its former size. The decline of the company was attributed to Lord Simpson's reversal of Lord Weinstock's business methods. Instead of building on its traditional strengths, he sought to transform Marconi into a glamorous, fast-growing communications giant, as reflected in the change of name.

Core assets were sold, and the proceeds, together with the cash reserves put away by Lord Weinstock, were augmented by additional borrowing and used to buy into telecommunication equipment plants. When the telecommunications bubble burst, Marconi found itself in trouble.

Weinstock died on July 23rd, 2002 of cancer.