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Wednesday, 27 November, 2002, 11:17 GMT
Best of British business: Weinstock

BBC News Online is inviting readers to vote for Britain's greatest business figure. This is the case for Arnold Weinstock.
It was in Albion Rd in the east end of London that the man who would become Britain's greatest post-war industrialist, Arnold Weinstock, first went to school.

Arnold Weinstock
From these modest beginnings, he went on to build the UK's biggest electrical company, GEC - creating the first ever British company to break the 1bn profit barrier.

He was a trailblazer, a bold adventurer, a poor Jewish orphan who built a world-class conglomerate from a set of dimly-lit offices and bust asunder the stuffy world of old-style British management.

The fact that Britain is still a leading player in the global power industry, and has a world-class, research-based defence industry, can largely be attributed to him.

He was, in a sense, the first modern businessman, this side of the Atlantic.

Eye for detail

He built a great manufacturing congolomerate, at a time of unprecedented manufacturing decline.

And his approach was simple, but revolutionary. You give the customer what they want, then you hammer down costs.

That's where your profit comes from.

It was this and his relentless eye for detail that earned him a reputation for frugality.

Bigger than Marconi

But what of his enduring legacy? Well, it doesn't lie here.

The GEC name has gone, and the company that replaced it, Marconi, is the faintest of shadows of its former Weinstock-led self.

Once worth 35bn, it's now worth a couple of hundred million.

But Weinstock is bigger than Marconi. The first meritocrat - the man who gave the customer his place as king, with this prime rule, he taught British business how to make a straightforward profit.

And that's why I think you should vote for Arnold Weinstock - the first modern businessman - as the best British business leader.


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