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Thorn, Sir Jules


THORN, SIR JULES (1899–1980), British industrialist. Born in Vienna, Thorn fought in the Austrian army in World War i and then settled in England about 1920. In 1928, with a modest investment, he opened a retail business in London which sold imported electric light bulbs and radio tubes. Over the next 40 years he built up Thorn Electrical Industries, which became one of Britain's largest concerns.

In 1933, Thorn began to manufacture lamps and lighting products in order to offset the high customs duty on imported varieties. Two years later he started making radio receivers and acquired several famous brands (Ferguson, hmv, Marconi, and Ultra). Concurrently he challenged the light-bulb monopoly of the 1930s and succeeded in breaking it by 1956. After World War ii he acquired gigantic holdings through a series of spectacular "takeovers." He built a powerful group of companies producing electric light bulbs, radio valves, domestic appliances, kitchen installations, and catering and firefighting equipment. His group of companies led in supplying radio and tv sets in Britain, later controlling 50 percent of the sales of color tv and dominating the tv rental field. His acquisition of Metal Industries led, in 1967, to stricter governmental supervision of stock market deals. He was knighted in 1964. Thorn gave generously to Jewish causes such as the Haifa Technion.

add. bibliography:

odnb online; dbb, 5, 507–10; S.A. Pandit, From Making to Music: The History of Thorn emi (1996).

[Julian Louis Meltzer]

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