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British Industrial History

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Edward Roberts Lewis

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Sir Edward Roberts Lewis, stockbroker, record and gramophone company executive.

1900 Edward Roberts Lewis (1900–1980) was born in Derby on 19 April 1900, the only son of Sir Alfred Edward Lewis (1868–1940), a banker, and his wife, May Roberts.

After Cambridge, Lewis worked in finance and at age 25 established his own stockbroking firm.

1923 he married Margaret Mary Hutton; they had two sons.

1928 Lewis's firm acted as brokers for Decca Gramophone Co's stock market flotation. Lewis thought the company should build on its worldwide reputation and distribution network through adding record production to its activities but Decca's board did not agree.

1929 Lewis formed a syndicate, the Malden Holding Company Ltd, with a view to establishing a record company of his own, based around the factory that had been used by Duophone. Although he offered this factory to Decca, the board did not accept the idea.

Lewis and his colleagues decided to take over Decca, since it had an established name and network, and floated Decca Record Co for this purpose.

Lewis then struggled for 10 years to prevent Decca going under. After much argument and persuasion, Lewis became de facto managing director, although his official position was as a member of the board.

He worked hard to keep Decca afloat during the Depression by signing new artists and lowering retail prices and by expanding the catalogue through links with the American Brunswick Record Company and the German Polydor Company.

He had to seek support from friends and family for the undersubcribed share issue in 1933.

By the time the Second World War broke out, Decca was prospering; during the war, demand for records rose considerably.

1939 Decca began experiments in radio navigation which ultimately led to Decca Navigator which was to prove profitable through to 1980 when the business was finally sold.

Post war, Lewis's good taste and the strength of his team led to success in making and selling records.

1951 He was knighted.

1957 Lewis officially became chairman.

1980 Lewis had never appointed a successor. Only days before his death, the business, then in serious financial trouble, was sold.

See Also

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Sources of Information

  • Biography of Sir Edward Roberts Lewis, by Peter Martland ODNB [1]