Lamenting the Departure of a British Giant

Lamenting the departure of a British Giant

Later this year Cable and Wireless Communications will up sticks and move from its Holborn offices in Central London to Florida, possibly to the sunny climes of Fort Lauderdale. Given the current spate of unseasonably inclement weather one can perhaps forgive them for the move.

Cable and Wireless is about 140 years old and was born out of the telegraph communications revolution in the later years of the 1800’s. Companies such as Pender’s Eastern Telegraph Company were formed to connect the far flung reaches of the British Empire. Interestingly they grew by the same sort of consolidation that we saw in the cable market over a century later with the larger companies purchasing the smaller operators.

These companies in many respects were the life blood of the British Empire allowing for communications across wide spread and disparate territories. In 1928 all telegraph communications and the newer wireless communications operations were merged into a single company that would consolidate communication across the empire. Originally this was called Imperial and International Communications Ltd. and later became Cable and Wireless Ltd.

In 1945 after labour won the general election Cable and Wireless was nationalized and became part of the Post Office. It was then privatized again between 1981 and 1982 under Margret Thatcher’s premiership.

Since then, through various twists and turns, mergers and acquisitions, like so many of the privatized British industries, Cable and Wireless Communications has ended up owned by foreign interests. Although the UK networks were separated into another company, Cable and Wireless Worldwide, purchased by Vodafone last year.

Whilst it’s always sad to see another aging British gentleman depart our shores, the Internet revolution is spawning a new generation of young exciting British companies. Who’s to say that in 140 years time some of them won’t have had the same impact as Cable and Wireless. You never know, perhaps we can persuade some of them to stay despite the rain.