The Marconi Company Ltd. was founded by Guglielmo Marconi in 1897 as The Wireless Telegraph & Signal Company (sometimes presented as Wireless Telegraph Trading Signal Company). It was renamed Marconi's Wireless Telegraph Company in 1900 and The Marconi Company in 1963.
As the defence division of GEC since 1968 it was renamed GEC-Marconi in 1987, Marconi Electronic Systems (MES) in 1998, which became part of BAE Systems in 1999. The Marconi Company should not be confused with the Marconi Corporation which was created in 1999 by the renaming of The General Electric Company (GEC), minus the Marconi Electronic Systems business.
Marconi's "Wireless Telegraph and Signal Company" was formed on 20 July 1897 after granting of a British patent for wireless in March of that year. The Company opened the world's first radio factory on Hall Street in Chelmsford in 1898 and was responsible for some of the most important advances in radio and television. These include:
The diode valve in 1904 (Fleming)
Transatlantic testsHigh Frequency tuned broadcasting
Formation of the British Broadcasting Company (later to become the independent BBC)
Formation of the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company of America (later RCA)
Formation of Marconi Marine (1904)
Short wave beam broadcasting
Marconi's Wireless Telegraph Training College was set up in 1901. Along with private entrepreneurs, Marconi company formed in 1924 the Unione Radiofonica Italiana (URI), which was granted by Mussolini's regime a monopoly of radio broadcasts in 1924. After the war, URI became the RAI, which lives on to this day.
In 1939 the Marconi Research Laboratories at Great Baddow were founded and in 1941 there was a buy out of Marconi-Ecko Instruments to form Marconi Instruments.
Operations as EE subsidiary
English Electric acquired The Marconi Company in 1946 which complemented its other operations; heavy electrical engineering, aircraft and its railway traction business. In 1948 the company was reorganised into four divisions:
These had expanded to 13 manufacturing divisions by 1965 when a further reorganisation took place.
The divisions were placed into three groups :
At this time The Marconi Company had facilities at New Street Chelmsford, Baddow, Basildon, Billericay, and Writtle as well as in Wembley, Gateshead and Hackbridge. It also owned Marconi Instruments, Sanders Electronics, Eddystone Radio, and Marconi Italiano. In 1967 Marconi took over Stratton and Company to form Eddystone Radio.Expansion as GEC subsidiary
In 1967 or 1968 English Electric was subject to a takeover bid by the Plessey Company but chose instead to accept an offer from GEC. The computer section of GEC, English Electric Leo Marconi (EELM), merged with Elliott Automation and International Computers and Tabulators (ICT) to form International Computers Limited (ICL). In 1968 Marconi Space and Defence Systems and Marconi Underwater Systems were formed.
The Marconi Company continued as the primary defence subsidiary of GEC, GEC-Marconi. Marconi was renamed GEC-Marconi in 1987. During the period 1968-1999 GEC-Marconi/MES underwent massive expansion.
Acquisitions which were folded into the company and partnerships established include:
Defense operations of Associated Electrical Industries in 1968, AEI had been acquired in 1967.
Ferranti defence businesses in 1990
Ferranti Dynamics in 1992
Vickers Shipbuilding and Engineering in 1995
Alenia Marconi Systems in 1998, a defence electronics company and an equal shares joint venture between GEC-Marconi and Finmeccanica's Alenia Difesa.
Tracor in 1998.
Other acquisitions include:
Divisions of Plessey in 1989 (others acquired by its partner in the deal, Siemens AG, to meet with regulatory approval).
Plessey Naval Systems
Plessey Electronic Systems (75%)
In a major reorganisation of the company, GEC-Marconi was renamed Marconi Electronic Systems in 1996 and was separated from other non-defence assets.
Marconi name today
In 1999 GEC underwent a major transformation. Marconi Electronic Systems was demerged and sold to British Aerospace which then formed BAE Systems.
GEC, realigning itself as a primarily telecommunications company following the MES sale, retained the Marconi brand and renamed itself Marconi plc. BAE were granted limited rights to continue its use in existing partnerships, however by 2005 no BAE businesses use the Marconi name. Major spending and the dot-com collapse lead to a major restructuring of that group, in a debt for equity swap shareholders were given 0.5% of the new company, Marconi Corporation plc.
In 1999 Reltec and Fore Systems were acquired at the height of the "dot-com" boom. With its subsequent collapse the Marconi Corporation got into financial difficulties.
In October 2005 the Marconi name and most of the assets were proposed to be bought by the Swedish firm Ericsson. The transaction was completed on January 23, 2006 effective as per January 1, 2006. The Marconi name will still be used as brand within Ericsson. The rest of the Marconi company was renamed as telent plc.
Baker, W J. History of the Marconi Company 1894-1965. (1970, 1996)
Marconi Scientists - Article about the 25+ defence employees who have died in mysterious circumstances since the early 1980s.
Marconiphone - the company's domestic receiver brand.