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British Industrial History

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Thorn EMI

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Thorn EMI was a major British company involved in consumer electronics, music, defence and retail.

1979 EMI was acquired by Thorn Electrical Industries to form Thorn EMI[1] one of the largest operating companies in the UK.

Thorn EMI's business covered four principal areas of activity;

  • Retail / rentals ( Radio Rentals, DER and Rumbelows (which was sold in 1995))
  • Defence
  • Music
  • Consumer electronics.

From its formation until the mid-1990s Thorn EMI was one of the United Kingdom's largest defence companies.

They also owned the Kenwood Manufacturing Co. The company is now owned by the Italian company DeLonghi.

1977 Thorn EMI Video was established which produced 3 made-for-video films for the British market: Cross Country (film) (1977), and Strange Invaders (1984) and Bloodbath at the House of Death (1984). Thorn EMI became popular with rental stores. In the USA, Thorn EMI released films on video from various film companies including Orion Pictures (The Terminator, First Blood) and New Line Cinema (The Evil Dead, Xtro).

1981 Thorn Heating was 1 of 6 boiler makers investigated for collusion in raising prices[2]

1981 Developed the fluorescent light bulb spending almost £1 million on the project up to February 1981. The rival at this time was Philips.

1981 Sold the entertainments interests to Trust Houses Forte, including 3 theatres.

1982 Parkinson Cowan (a subsidiary of Thorn EMI) was reorganised and split into two:[3]

  • Thorn EMI Industrial Boilers - the well-known business continued to trade but under this name.
  • Thorn EMI Energy Development - newly set-up to exploit Parkinson technology in new product areas.

1983 Sold the share capital of Monks and Crane Ltd, of Stafford, to its management[4].

1983 Sold Foster Electrical Supplies to Parkfield Group

1985 Thorn EMI joined HBO, and formed Thorn EMI HBO Video.

1986 Cannon films bought Thorn EMI's video library. Cannon was eventually just called HBO Video in 1987.

1986 FKI Electricals acquired the Mechanical Engineering and Components Division[5].

1986 Sold the heating division to Myson

1988 Electrolux took over the appliance division of Thorn EMI which brought with it brands including Tricity, Bendix, and Parkinson Cowan gas cookers[6].

1989 The EMI label expanded greatly - Thorn EMI bought a 50% interest in Chrysalis Records, buying the outstanding 50% in 1991.

1992 In one of its highest-profile and most expensive acquisitions, Thorn EMI took over Richard Branson's Virgin Records.

Thorn Security installed and serviced all types of electronic security systems from their bases around the UK.

The Business Communications division, based in Marlow, provided hotels with televisions and related equipment. It also embarked upon a project called Hotel 3000 which provided interactive Set-Top-Boxes for hotel rooms in the late 1980s.

1990 Thorn EMI acquired the MEL division of Philips. This company was involved in radar, electronic warfare and communications. The MEL communications business was sold to Thomson-CSF.

Ferguson Radio Corporation was owned by Thorn EMI and it made consumer electronics like TV sets, VCRs, etc. TVs were designed and manufactured by Ferguson in the UK until around the early 1990s, although before this, some Thomson-designed models were introduced to the Fergsuon range of TVs for sale in the UK. Some of these Thomson-based models were even manufactured in the UK, although in later years, these models were made outside the UK by Thomson.

By 1992, the Ferguson TV factory in Gosport had closed, ending a long period of manufacturing of Ferguson TVs in the UK.

1995 the various defence businesses were sold:

1996 On August 16, Thorn EMI shareholders voted in favour of demerger proposals, completing the process of focusing the company which became EMI Group plc, with the electronics and rentals divisions divested as Thorn plc which was later acquired by Future Rentals, a subsidiary of Nomura Group in 1998. It is now defunct.

The Thorn Security business was absorbed into ADT soon after the EMI demerger and all but a handful of the famous red 'THORN' bellboxes replaced. However, the Fire products especially are still to be found in many premises and until recently spares and complete systems of Thorn heritage continued to be manufactured by ADT.

See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. The Times, 14 November 1979
  2. The Times, Jun 30, 1981
  3. The Engineer 1982/01/21
  4. The Times, 26 May 1983
  5. Funding Universe [1]
  6. The Times, January 02, 1988