Tuesday, January 24, 2006
LONE STAR - Post-1970, an abridged history of the Group
The following account has been supplied by a former Managing Director. It is reproduced, here, on an 'E. & O.E.' basis. Pertinent 'comments', contributed by the Compiler of this Web-log, intended to be helpful to the reader, have been inserted between brackets, thus [. . . . . . ] .
"In the years following the war D.C.M.T. expanded vigorously mainly due to its involvement in the Toy Industry. By 1970, it had three factories (Palmers Green, Welham Green and Hatfield) all involved in the production of toys, (Lone Star Products); Die-casting machines and Commercial castings (D.C.M.T.). Subsidiary companies of the D.C.M.T. Group were A.G.M. Industries (Injection moulders - mainly toys); Californian Screen Blocks (Cement Decorative Building blocks - factories at Wareham [Dorset] and Cheadle) and Eaglet Industries (factory at Hatfield engaged in Rotational moulding of toys and Vacuum Forming packaging). Total employees numbered roughly 1,000.
This expansion cost money and the Company was heavily in debt. In fact, all Directors had to pledge their houses against the bank's overdraft. With the death of 'Bob' Mills [Aubrey Robert Mills] in 1973, control passed to 'Ernie' E. A. Burks (Chairman) and myself (Managing Director). In 1976, Henry Aizecorbe (a Cuban/American owning a small Jigsaw company in London Colney [near St. Albans, Herts.], acquired 51% of the Capital of D.C.M.T. (thus releasing the Directors from their pledges with the Bank). Aizecorbe was [ostensibly] backed by the Bank of Ohio in the States but it proved that he borrowed the money [under questionable circumstances] from that Bank and [consequently] the shares passed to the Bank. Things ran fairly smoothly under the Bank [presumably the Bank of Ohio] for 4/5 years but, under American law, they were unable to operate a manufacturing business for more than 5 years and so a buyer was [needed to be] found - [This turned out to be] a company based in Macclesfield - one of our main Zinc suppliers. Their Managing Director, Anthony Whitworth, became our Chief Executive Officer and he virtually ran the Company.
In 1981, The Crescent Toy Company (our main rivals in the toy gun business) went into liquidation so they were purchased by our parent Company, Leigh & Sillavan. Unfortunately this was the era when the country ran into trouble and the Labour government, under [James] Callaghan, went to the I.M.F. [International Monetary Fund] for a loan. Interest rates rose, so did inflation and Margaret Thatcher took over when the Conservatives won the Election. Interest Rates, Inflation continued to rise (15-20% at one time!) and the £ lost value. Export markets rapidly disappeared. At that time 75% of our toy output was sold overseas. 'Matchbox' was over 80%. This saw the collapse of the Toy Industry in the U.K. Matchbox, Corgi, Lines Brothers, Dunbee-Combex-Marx and many other manufacturers went. At that time we were borrowing £1.4m from the Bank. They instructed us to reduce this to under £500,000 at peak time. This we did by selling off [the factories at] Palmers Green (£250,000); Welham Green (£500,000); and Californian Screen Blocks (£160,000). Our overdraft came down to £400,000 scheduled to drop to £200,000 after the toy season, but the Bank foreclosed.
I [the source of this information] had a contact in Germany who I persuaded to buy the Company from the Receivers and they, Wicke GmbH & Co., carried on manufacturing, quite successfully at Hatfield, for several years but the urge to transfer manufacturing to China (like most other British toy manufacturers) was their downfall. Their local contacts were [according to the source] poor and, after a few years, they sold out to one of their main customers in Germany, Soni-Esco, (who have a Distribution depot at Wetherby, Yorkshire) and I believe they are still operating in a small way. I [still] see a few guns and holster sets in shops, bearing the Lone Star brand."