The Purchase of Caley’s

One day in 1932, Harold Mackintosh was at the Savoy Hotel, London having lunch. As he was passing another table, one of the diners caught him by the arm. It was a Mr. D'Arcy Cooper, then chairman of Unilever. He said to Mackintosh, "Do you want to buy a chocolate business? We've got one we should like to get rid of." He was referring to A.J. Caley's of Norwich, which Lever Brothers had taken over. Harold Mackintosh visited Caley's factory, which had been built just after the First World War. It was an old established firm, built up from small beginnings in a retail shop, very similar to Mackintosh's own history. To Harold Mackintosh the company's failure was an example of what can happen when a giant concern takes over a well run family business and tries to run it from a boardroom in London.

Now Unilever wanted rid of it. Harold Mackintosh took a final offer to Unilever's chairman. "Why", said D'Arcy Cooper, "that's just the price I could break it up for." Mackintosh replied, "Yes, we are saving you the bother." Finally the offer was accepted. There was another, more personal, reason for buying Caley's, besides wanting to get into the chocolate business. In 1938 Harold Mackintosh's younger brother Eric was twenty-five years of age and showing considerable aptitude for business. Harold also believed that his brother was one of those ambitious and enterprising young men who found a limited sphere of operation rather tedious. Harry Guy, a business man who Harold Mackintosh brought to the company said, "You'll not get the best out of Eric until you can find a responsible job for him to tackle." So when the Caley proposition came along Harold said to Harry: 'If you will go along with Eric we will see what you two can do with it; you with your experience and Eric with his youth and enthusiasm." The two worked well together and on occasions when they had finished discussing a problem, Harry would say, "Well Eric, I think we've cured that boredom."

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