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Sinclair: A Corporate History

25 July
  • Sinclair Radionics Ltd is founded by Clive Sinclair. Company is based at 69 Histon Road, Cambridge.
  • Radionics moves to Duncan Terrace, Islington.
  • Radionics moves to Comberton, Cambridge.
  • Radionics moves to Newmarket Road, Cambridge.
  • Radionics operation moves to Enderby's Mill, London Rd, St Ives, Huntingdonshire
  • Sinclair Radionics profits 85,000 on turnover of 563,000
  • Sinclair Radionics profits 97,000 on turnover of 761,000
  • Sinclair Radionics generates a turnover of 1.8m
17 Sept
  • Ablesdeal Ltd incorporated. Virtually all Sinclair business activities, however, are conducted by Sinclair Radionics Ltd.
  • Sinclair Radionics profits 240,000 on turnover of 4m
  • Sinclair Radionics Inc., USA founded with Nigel Searle as President

11 Feb
  • Ablesdeal changes its name to Westminster Mail Order Ltd.
  • Sinclair Radionics profits 45,000 on turnover of 6.3m
  • Sinclair Radionics loss 355,000 on turnover of 5.6m
  • National Enterprise Board inject 650,000 capital for 43 per cent stake in Sinclair Radionics
  • Sinclair Radionics loss 820,000 in previous twelve months
  • NEB inject further 1.65m to take 73 per cent equity in Sinclair Radionics, and extend loan facility of 1m
  • Norman Hewett appointed MD of Radionics on behalf of NEB
  • Sinclair Instruments Ltd becomes Science of Cambridge Ltd
  • Sinclair Radionics loss 1.29m in previous eight months
  • Norman Hewett leaves Radionics
  • Michael Pye appointed MD of Radionics
  • Sinclair Radionics loss 1.98m on 6.39m turnover. Total NEB investment 4.45m, plus trading losses
  • NEB announces plans to sell off calculator and TV interests of Sinclair Radionics
  • Clive Sinclair resigns from Sinclair Radionics with 10,000 golden handshake
  • NEB shift instruments division into Sinclair Electronics
  • NEB loss totals 7.8m on Radionics operation
  • Sinclair Electronics becomes Thandar Electronics Ltd, and Sinclair Radionics ceases to exist
  • Science of Cambridge profit 131,000 on turnover of 640,000
10 Nov
  • Science of Cambridge Ltd becomes Sinclair Computers Ltd
11 March
  • Sinclair Computers changes its name to Sinclair Research Ltd.
  • Sinclair Research profits 818,000 on a turnover of 4.6m.
  • Sinclair Browne Ltd publishing company formed
  • Sinclair Research profits of 8.55m on turnover of 27.17m, including 383,000 government grants for flat screen
  • N. M. Rothschild & Son place 400,000 shares (10 per cent of equity) of Sinclair Research at 34 each with financial institutions, valuing the company at 136m. Clive now owns 85 per cent, gains 13.6m as result of sale
  • Computer division of Sinclair moves to Willis Rd, Cambridge
  • Sinclair Research profits of 13.8m on 54.53m turnover, including 1.1m flat TV grants. Clive's salary 82,000
  • Richard Cutting recruited to head 'MetaLab' research centre

Sinclair Research profits 14.28m on turnover of 77.69m, including 309,000 government grants.

Writing in the annual company report, Clive says that the low profit figure is largely due to the launch of major products such as the QL and the pocket television which "added greatly to costs in the year but little to sales". However, other products are said to be healthy. "Our Spectrum computer continues to gain in sales. Pocket television production is increasing and we hope to expand sales abroad next calendar year ... Export sales have increased steadily and there has been rapid growth in the home market. Export sales are expected to increase as a percentage of total sales". Sinclair claims that the "technical leadership" of the company will be enhanced "now that our advanced research lab, MetaLab, is established."

May Sinclair Vehicles moves to University of Warwick Science Park. Barry Wills is MD
  • 7 Feb - Sinclair aborts stock market flotation
  • 20 Feb - Sinclair Research restructures into TV and Communications Division (headed by Bill Jeffrey, brought in from Mars Electronics) and Computer Division (headed by Davis Chatten, ex-Sinclair Production Director). Hugo Davenport appointed Engineering Director (ex-Solatron-Schlumberger)
  • Nigel Searle transfers to head US operation for QL, FM wristwatch radio and flat-screen TV mail order
  • 12 Mar - Plans to form and seek funding for separate company for wafer-scale chips under Robb Wilmot are announced by Clive. Wilmot appointed a director of Sinclair Research
  • Institutional investors (holding 10 per cent of shares) told that profits to December were 7.9m on a turnover of 89m, with stocks held worth 34m
  • Figures (not released until November) show pre-tax loss of 18m on turnover of 102m. 22m written off for decrease in stock value and bad debts
  • 28 May - Sinclair confirms it is seeking 10m-15m to 'fund long-term growth and restructuring' and a new chief executive to replace Clive in this role and denies Clive intends to relinquish his position as chairman
  • 2 June - Sinclair Vehicles confirms it is looking to sell company.
  • 17 June - Robert Maxwell announces rescue bid for Sinclair Research, which has 15m debts. Deal to leave Clive with 8 percent, chairmanship and consultancy
  • 9 Aug - Maxwell aborts Sinclair Research takeover
  • Sinclair Vehicles renamed as TPD Ltd
  • 14 Oct - Receivers called in to TPD Ltd (ex-Sinclair Vehicles Ltd).
  • 6 Nov - TPD Ltd (ex-Sinclair Vehicles) goes into voluntary liquidation with debts of 6.4m.
  • Sinclair Vehicles (Sales) Ltd to continue electric car projects
  • 7 Apr - Amstrad pays 5m for all rights to existing Sinclair computer products including the name and logos, and commits 11m for outstanding orders and work in progress. Sinclair Research becomes research and consultancy, two separate subsidiaries to be formed, one with Timex holding 75 per cent for portable phone project, one with Barclays Bank funding for wafer-scale development. Sinclair Research now becomes a holding company for interests in a series of 'spin outs' covering electronics and other sectors.
  • 7 July - Anamartic Ltd launched. Seeks to raise 6m to produce waferscale memory device for production early 1987
  • Shaye Communications Ltd is founded to develop advanced telecoms products.
  • Cambridge Computer Ltd is founded to develop new computer technologies.
  • Cambridge Computer Z88 is released and receives a positive response from reviewers and the public. It sells well and proves a good earner for the company.
  • Cambridge Computer enters the market for satellite receivers. It launches revolutionary compact satellite dishes, marketed by Sky Television, in 60cm and 45cm versions.
  • 1988-1989 results: a loss of 183,015 on a turnover of just 7,825. By now the company employs only three people - Sinclair himself, a sales and admin person and a research-and-development person.
  • Facing difficulties in raising capital, Sinclair Research sells Cambridge Computer to SCI "for a nominal amount in return for a royalty stream on the satellite receivers".
  • 1989-1990 results: a profit of 618,389 (raised from a sale of assets) on a turnover of 4,754. Sir Clive writes in the company report:

    In recent years, Sinclair Research Limited has exploited its technology through companies formed with investors. These ventures include Anamartic Limited, the first and only company in the world to produce products incorporating wafer scale integration (WSI), Shaye Communications Limited, one of the leaders in the CT-2 telephone field, Cambridge Computer Limited, making laptop computers and satellite receivers and Symbolkit Limited, through its licence granted to P.G.C Limited, which is developing the ultra fast computer processors.

    Anamartic Limited has recently and successfully started to sell finished products to the computer manufacturing industry. These have proved highly reliable and cost effective. The need for further capital will probably lead to dilution in our shareholding.

    Shaye Communications Limited are selling their original CT-2 phone in several countries and have reached a turnover of around 5 million pet annum. The development of a second generation machine conforming to the common air interface (the new standard) is well advanced and should lead to a considerable growth of business.

    During the year we sold the majority of our interest in Cambridge Computer Limited to S.C.l. for a nominal amount in return for a royalty stream on the satellite receivers. This was a disappointing result of our inability to raise the capital needed for the Company at a difficult time in the market.

    P.G.C. Limited continues to develop its very high speed computer chip and has received an injection of capital from outside investors. Progress is very promising.

    The main project within Sinclair Research Limited is a pedal bicycle dramatically lighter than any previously made. This uses lightweight composite materials to the almost complete exclusion of steel. Development is well advanced and tooling will commence soon. We intend to launch the bike in 1992.

    Last year we made a reasonable profit but this is unlikely to be repeated in the current year as the bike project absorbs funds. The longer term prospects remain good.

  • Sinclair Research divests itself of its remaining investment in Shaye.
  • Sinclair launches the Zeta bicycle drive unit.
  • 1990-91 results: a loss of 271,734 on a turnover of 5,486. In his statement, Sir Clive writes:

    Over the past year your company has developed and tooled a radical electric bike called the Zike. This has cost 500,000 paid for partly by the sale of our remaining shares in Shaye Communications and partly by borrowings totalling 200,000. Production is due to start in late June at the works of our subcontractor Tudor Webasto in Birmingham.

    There have been many electric bikes over the years but these have all weighed upwards of 35 kg making them most "unbike" like. The Zike weighs just 11 kg or about the same as an ordinary racing bike. This is a result of a new motor, electronics, battery and complete frame as the enclosed leaflet explains. If you would like to order one you are entitled to a 50 discount as a shareholder. The leaflet contains an order form.

    It is too early of course to know the success of the Zike but all the early indications are encouraging. Over 2,000 members of the public rode prototypes at the Cyclex exhibition in March and were clearly impressed. 300 orders have been placed by members of the public who requested leaflets. Over 200 foreign companies have approached us for agencies and many sample orders have been placed.

  • 1991-92 results: a loss of 592,600 on a turnover of 1,115. The auditors write that the company can only be considered a going concern because the chairman (Sir Clive) is supporting it from his own pocket. Sir Clive states:

    Our company is now focused on the Zike electric bike. This is tooled and in production with around 1,200 sold so far but two problems have arisen which, at the time of writing, have much inhibited the rate of sales which had been rising steadily. Some batteries were found to have corroded which caused us to recall Zikes, though only 1% were affected. This was not a design fault and is so far unexplained. Also Tudor Webasto who have made the Zike so far have decided to cease as they need the factory space for expansion of their core business.

    We are talking to several companies interested in taking over from Tudor Webasto and we are developing new models but no reliable forecasts can yet be made.

28 April
  • Sinclair launches the Zike electric bicycle.
  • 1992-93 results: a loss of 169,197 on a turnover of 379,836. In his director's report, Sir Clive writes:

    Since the company year end Zike sales have continued favourably and this product now represents positive cash flow.

    We have concluded an agreement with MTI Inc in Seattle whereby we licence them to sell a computer chip we developed with an associated company. This looks highly promising, we have received a first payment of 100,000, but it is too early to make predictions.

    On the 28th April 1994 we launched a new product called ZETA. This is a bolt on unit which converts any bicycle to electric power. At the time of writing, 18th May, we have sold over 1,000 units by mail order at 144.95 each. Clearly the prospects look excellent.

  • 1993-94 results: a loss of 194,826 on a turnover of 510,943.
  • 1994-95 results: a loss of 303,630 on a turnover of 435,742.
  • 1995-96 results: a loss of 122,873 on a turnover of 255,826. By now the staff has been reduced to one - Sinclair himself.