- Born in Stoke Newington, London.
- Graduated from the London School of Economics.
- Appointed a Junior Administrative Officer in the Admiralty.
- Appointed Managing Director of Radio & Allied Industries.
- Appointed Managing Director of General Electric Company.
- Appointed Director of Rolls-Royce.
- Made a life peer, as Baron Weinstock of Bowden.
- Appointed Chairman Emeritus of General Electric Company.
- Died in Bowden Hill, Wiltshire, UK.
Life and Career
Lord Weinstock was an industrialist and business leader during the post-war period. After spending his military service in the Admiralty, working on government procurement in the Production and Priority Branch, he became a civil servant, before going into finance and property development in London. He later joined his father-in law’s electronics company, Radio & Allied Industries Ltd, which he helped merge with General Electric Company, becoming its largest shareholder. He then built GEC into one of the Britain’s largest companies, with wide interests in everything from military equipment to trains and telephones. He was an advisor to four British prime ministers, including Margaret Thatcher. He was a trustee of the British Museum, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra Foundation Fund, and a senior trustee of the Next Century Foundation, a peace process organization he helped establish. He also established the Weinstock Fund, a charitable foundation.
Weinstock led General Electric Company (GEC) for more than three decades, building it into one of the biggest and most successful industrial conglomerates in the UK, during a period of steady decline in manufacturing.
In the 1960s, he was a pioneer of the hostile takeover and used aggressive tactics to create a monopoly position for GEC in the electrical engineering and defense electronics industries.
His takeovers were encouraged by Harold Wilson’s government, which was keen to make British manufacturing more competitive.
In the 1970s and 1980s, he continued to grow the business—both organically, and by acquiring rivals.
During the economic recession of the early 1990s, GEC retained its market leading position by slashing costs, closing inefficient factories, and confronting the unions.
Weinstock’s unbending management style helped the group generate profits of £1 billion a year during the downturn. However, while the company also amassed cash reserves of more than £3 billion, City investors felt that a change was long overdue.
Weinstock eventually stepped down in 1996 after 33 years as managing director to become honorary “chairman emeritus”, and to make way for Lord Simpson of Dunkeld as his chosen successor. Simpson renamed the company Marconi to underline the end of the Weinstock era, and pursued bold new strategies which would ultimately bring it to disaster.
Weinstock was a central figure in the business world of the 1960s, when he pioneered a wave of mergers, mostly hostile, which changed the face of British industry.
The largest of these was GEC’s takeover of the larger Amalgamated Electrical Industries, backed and financially supported by the government’s Industrial Reorganisation Commission.
His program of rationalization at GEC transformed the UK’s electronics industry, as he introduced efficiency measures, stringent cost-cutting, staff reductions, and implemented mergers to inject new growth into the company.
This returned GEC to profit, and restored the City’s confidence in its plans for development.
Weinstock was known for his uncompromising management style: during his tenure at GEC, he cut the number of employees from 250,000 down to just 57,000.
His managerial approach in the 1990s set the tone for lean management, and flat organizational structures.
As GEC’s profits and growth started to decrease, it became increasingly unpopular with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and the City.
In an effort to protect GEC from takeover bids, Weinstock formed alliances with Alsthom in France, Siemens in Germany and General Electric in the US. But his actions could not stop the company’s decline and, by the time he left GEC, much of the group had been broken up into smaller partnerships.
“You must live as if you are immortal.”