Ferranti: A History


From family firm to multinational company, 1975–87 (vol. 2)

Following from Ferranti Building a Family Business, 1882–1975, volume two offers a detailed insight into the exciting twelve years between 1975 and 1987.


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In the first volume of this history of Ferranti Building a Family Business, 1882–1975 John Wilson traced the evolution of a family firm from its roots in 1882 up to the mid-1970s, volume two offers a detailed insight into the exciting twelve years between 1975 and 1987. Having been quasi-nationalised in 1975, after the Labour government rescued the firm from severe difficulties of liquidity, Ferranti was converted from being a family firm into a much more conventional modern business operation, with professional managers and City shareholders, strategic planning exercises and a much-changed structure. Although it was 1982 before the government finally sold its Ferranti holdings – at a significant profit – as a condition of its support in 1975 the Department of Industry had replaced Sebastian de Ferranti as managing director with Derek Alun-Jones, a former oil company executive. A major theme of volume two is consequently concerned with analysing the extent to which these managerial and ownership changes altered the ‘Ferranti spirit’ that had been the foundations on which the firm had expanded throughout the century since the 1880s. Individual chapters are devoted to each of the major divisions – Ferranti Engineering, Ferranti Instrumentation, Ferranti Electronics, Ferranti Computer Systems, and the Scottish activities – reflecting the fundamental changes in product range and priority areas. In addition, ample space is given to looking at the managerial, financial and human resource strategies that unfolded under Derek Alun-Jones. As the volume’s title indicates, this was also the period when Ferranti’s international activities were extended enormously, especially in the USA, with each of the major divisions opening up subsidiaries in the world’s largest electronics and avionics markets.

It is consequently clear that in many ways Ferranti by the mid-1980s was a very different firm to the operation that had been run and owned by the de Ferranti family. At the same time, one should stress how the ‘Ferranti spirit’ remained a major influence on the way that the divisions especially operated, with innovations and exciting new developments spilling out of the laboratories and workshops in much the same way that they had done prior to 1975. This demonstrates how continuity was as much a feature of the period 1975–87 as change, with Derek Alun-Jones and his management team attempting to harness the impressive range of engineering, managerial and technical skills that had been accumulated under the family. By the mid-1980s, Ferranti was consequently regarded as not only a highly innovative firm, but also a lucrative shareholding by those in the City who bought equities. These achievements are charted in great detail by Professor Wilson, resulting in a book that accurately reflects the excitement associated with working at one of Britain’s leading electronics firms.

  • Author: Prof. John F. Wilson
  • Binding: Hardback
  • ISBN: 978-1-905472-01-7
  • Pages: 416
  • Illustrations: over 100 mono and colour
  • Date of Publication: 2007
  • Dimensions: 234 × 156 mm


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