UK: Ups and downs of Thatcherism - the corporate winners and losers. (4 of 5)

UK: Ups and downs of Thatcherism - the corporate winners and losers. (4 of 5) -

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010


The computing sector was the first to feel the intense heat of competition and spiralling costs. Fortunes of £100 million just dribbled away to nothing in no more than a couple of years.

Asil Nadir (fruit exports): 1980 £478m; 1990 nil.

Nagging doubts persisted over Turkish Cypriot Asil Nadir's fruits to packaging to electronics empire, Polly Peck International. It seems that the doubters were right. Within days of a proposed buyout the banks' support disappeared. Valued at £2 billion a year ago, the company is now under administration.

Stephen Rubin (sportswear): 1987 £428m; 1990 £88m.

Reebok trainers were the making of Stephen Rubin's Pentland. The 32% stake cost just $77,500 in 1981. By 1989 it accounted for 80% of profits of £71.4 million. Now falling consumer spending is hitting Reebok sales in the US, its share price is dropping on Wall Street and Rubin wants to sell. Pentland's future and Rubin's 58% stake in it depends on whether he can find a deal to match Reebok.

Alan Sugar (electronics): 1984 £590m; 1990 £159m.

East-Ender Alan Sugar shot to fame packaging yesterday's technological wonders for the mass market. Between flotation in 1980 and sales peak in 1988 his company, Amstrad, saw pre-tax profits rocket to £160.4 million. But in 1988-89 Amstrad was caught out by massive overstocking.

Sir Bernard Ashley (retailing): 1986 £292m; 1990 £89m.

The Laura Ashley chain was the classic role model for the Thatcherite enterprise culture. In 1985 it was floated on the stock market to a rapturous welcome in the City, which valued the family stake at £292 million. Even the death of Laura Ashley did not dim City enthusiasm. But the high interest rate policy and squeeze on retailers hit hard.

Roger Levitt (financial services): 1980 £150m; 1990 nil.

Providing financial services for the wealthy made Roger Levitt one of them. His clients were sports stars like jockey Pat Eddery and boxer Lennox Lewis. But last year regulatory body FIMBRA withdrew his registration after uncovering "disorganisation" in the group's finances. Administrators were appointed to review the company's affairs.

Sir Terence Conran (retailing): 1987 £117m; 1990 £9m.

After huge success with Habitat, Sir Terence Conran built up his great retail empire. Then came the ill-fated £1.5 billion merger with British Home Stores in 1986. After bitter boardroom feuding, Sir Terence left Storehouse, by then ailing, in 1990. He still retains a 2.2% stake in the business.

Stuart Lipton (property): 1988 £170m; 1990 £63m.

Renowned for his involvement in blue chip developments like London's Broadgate and the proposed King's Cross scheme, Stuart Lipton's Stanhope Properties rode high in the '80s. But in the current harsher conditions pre-tax profits slipped by £544,000 to £15 million in 1989/90. Despite net assets up 35% to £458 million at Stanhope, the City is unimpressed with the sector.

Hermann Hauser (computing): 1984 £102m; 1990 £1m.

Austrian-born physicist Hermann Hauser, as co-founder of Acorn Computers, led the team which invented the BBC micro in the early '80s. But in 1985 Acorn had to be rescued by Olivetti. Hauser's stake, worth £102 million in May 1984, had shrunk to £11 million by March 1985. In 1988 he left to develop a pen-based computer through his new Active Book Company.

Sir Clive Sinclair (inventor): 1984 £100m; 1990 £5m.

The pocket calculator and home computer made Clive Sinclair Britain's best-known inventor. But his management skills were not equal to his ideas. In 1986 his computer company was sold to Amstrad for £5 million. Another famous invention, the Sinclair C5 electric car, was a spectacular flop, but he is still inventing.

Chris Curry (computing): 1984 £83m; 1990 £1m.

In the mid-1980s Chris Curry was one of a group of entrepreneurs who were busy creating the "Silicon Fen" in Cambridge. Acorn Computers, which he founded with Hermann Hauser, was a pioneer in the mass computer market, making Curry a multi-millionaire on paper. When his shares became almost worthless he quit Acorn. His new company is Science of Cambridge.

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