Sir Christopher Lewinton
The passing at the age of 91 of Sir Christopher Lewinton closes a chapter in the Dowty Group history.
Born in Kentish Town , north London , Sir Christopher joined Graviner upon leaving school , a Buckinghamshire engineering firm that made fire protection equipment for aircraft and he obtained a Higher National Diploma in mechanical engineering.
After National Service with the Royal Engineers Sir Christopher joined the marketing department of Wilkinson Sword and was then despatched to the USA to run its disposable razor division.
He became the Wilkinson Sword Chief Executive in 1970 but was headhunted to run TI in 1985 . Here he acquired the nickname “the Great White Shark” as he proceeded to spend more than £1.5 bn transforming T I into a global engineering and aerospace giant- one third of this spend was to acquire the Dowty Group in 1992.
Allegedly he had the Dowty Group in his sights from his very early TI days with the intention of rivalling British Aerospace as the U.K.’s largest engineering concern.
Sir Christopher bided his time with regard to Dowty- his principal interest was in the aerospace activity. Dowty disposed of their mining activities in 1989 and suffered the loss of both its Chairman and Chief Executive in June 1991.
T I pounced in the spring of 1992. Dowty had suffered profit falls and rising borrowings in the early nineties but made a spirited defence.
TI had earned a reputation for using entirely legitimate techniques to buff up profits to the extent that analysts invented a joke accolade, the TI award for Creative Accounting .
Dowty made much play of this in their defence to no avail.
T l won the day.
The acquisition was not an unqualified success .In 1993 TI made 1500 Dowty employees redundant- 20 % of the workforce and disposed of seven electronic businesses to form Ultra Electronics.
The landing gear activity was transferred into a joint venture.
After its market capitalisation peaked at £3.3 bn in the nineties TI entered into decline and at the end of the decade merged with the Smiths Group – the combined value of the merger was £4.5bn.