Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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Louis Saul Sterling

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Sir Louis Saul Sterling (1879–1958), of the Columbia Graphophone Co, manager of a gramophone and record company and industrialist

1904 Louis Sterling, in partnership with an American sound engineer, Russell Hunting, formed the Sterling Record Company Ltd to manufacture and sell cylinder records.

1909 Sterling formed the Rena Manufacturing Company to manufacture and sell disc records and record players. In the event only a catalogue of records was released - these from the financially troubled British branch of the American Columbia company, the Columbia Phonograph Co, General. The Rena contract gave Columbia's factory and studios a financial lifeline.

1910 Sterling sold his growing business to Columbia, which he then joined as British sales manager. His business acumen and sales ability transformed Columbia's fortunes

By 1914 about one third of British households possessed some form of record player, and, at a time when German manufacturers controlled more than half the British record market, Columbia held more than 15 per cent.

WWI Sterling became Columbia's European general manager and presided over a boom in the British trade.

1917 the company was incorporated in Britain as the Columbia Graphophone Co Ltd, with Sterling as managing director; acquired the Hertford Record Company.

Post WWI: under Sterling's leadership, the company became the world's most dynamic record company.

1923 Columbia's American parent was put into receivership. Sterling arranged a management buy-out of the British and European business.

1924 Floated the company's shares on the London stock market.

1925 Acquired the former American parent, Columbia Phonograph Company, Inc., which he then reorganized and rationalized, and turned into a profit-making venture.

1927 Columbia Phonograph invested in the Independent Broadcasting Network, which was renamed Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) and later became one of America's major broadcasting networks.

1931 Became managing director of the new Electric and Musical Industries Ltd.

By the early 1930s Sterling had integrated much of the world's record industry and was a major electrical goods manufacturer, with worldwide manufacturing and distribution networks and an important research laboratory.

1932 became a naturalized British subject

c1934 After 3 years of losses, Sterling undertook a massive rationalization of EMI's manufacturing and distribution network. He concentrated the radio manufacturing facilities at Hayes, and introduced new products including refrigerators and electric irons and other domestic appliances. He supported EMI's development of the 405-line television system. With this new product Sterling believed the company would be in a strong position to exploit the next major innovation in domestic leisure activities.

1936 The EMI system of television was adopted by the BBC in the London area.

1937 Sterling was knighted in the Coronation honours list.

1939 After a boardroom battle, Sterling left the company.

1958 Died at St Mary's Hospital, London

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