Lord Weinstock calls the shots in Britain's electronics industry. But how much longer will he be the Mighty Mouse of GEC? The 67-year old Weinstock has seen off most of his competitors over the years, but even his miraculous powers cannot stave off the march of time.
Now, both in and outside GEC's Stanhope Gate HQ, the question is, who will succeed him. It is an issue that has taxed the formidable Weinstock intellect, though until last Spring he thought he had the answer in son Simon.
Alas, any thoughts of a Weinstock dynasty, with Arnold as chairman and Simon stepping into his father's shoes, have just been dashed by the Pru, GEC's biggest institutional shareholder with a 7% stake. The young Simon, not yet 40, certainly has the brains, but many people suspect he lacks the drive and determination of his pater. A Wykehamist who went up to Magdalen College, Oxford, he had a 10-year spell at the intellectual hot-house of Warburgs before joining GEC, where he has made his way effortlessly up the Stanhope Gate hierarchy to become commercial director in 1987 and a main board member to boot. Yet Simon shows more interest in the extensive family racing stock than GEC stock.
Now the Pru has put paid to his father's ambitions.
Under pressure from some of GEC's executive directors and with support from the City, the Pru was prodded into telling Weinstock that Simon could not inherit the throne. It was a relief to those on the board, not enamoured with the Weinstock succession plans,
Weinstock now accepts, that Simon will not succeed him. In the New Year, the board is expected to look for a successor, both for Lord Prior, retiring chairman, and for a new managing director, to take over from Weinstock himself. As for Simon, he won't be joining the dole queue or feeling any undue sense of deprivation.
Despite criticism from some quarters about GEC's lacklustre share price in the last decade, Lord Weinstock's legendary ability to hoard cash and increase margins leaves the group in a much sounder financial position than many of its Continental rivals.
And, after all, Simon is the largest privy individual shareholder on the bard and in the group, with £60 million worth of GEC stock.