The Distillers Company
|Industry||Manufacture of distilled potable drinks|
|Headquarters||Edinburgh, Scotland, UK|
The Distillers Company Limited was a leading Scottish drinks and pharmaceutical company which at one time was a constituent of the FTSE 100 Index. It was taken over by Guinness & Co. (now part of Diageo) in 1986 in a transaction which was later found to have involved fraudulent activity, becoming known as the Guinness share-trading fraud.
The company was formed in 1877 by a combination of six Scotch whisky distilleries: Macfarlane & Co., John Bald & Co., John Haig & Co, MacNab Bros & Co, Robert Mowbray and Stewart & Co. This company was born out of a trade association called the Scotch Distillers’ Association formed in 1865.
From 1942, Distillers Biochemicals (DCBL) operated an Agency Factory of the British Ministry of Supply manufacturing penicillin in Speke. The plant was one of the first two factories in Europe to produce penicillin. Following World War II, DCBL purchased the facility for approximately four million dollars.
Distillers was also responsible for the manufacture of the drug Thalidomide in the United Kingdom. Thalidomide had been developed by Grunenthal with whom, in July 1957, DCBL signed a sixteen-year contract to market the drug. DCBL ordered 6,000 tablets for clinical trial and 500 grammes of pure substance for animal experiments and formulation. Thalidomide was marketed in England under the name Distaval, beginning on April 14, 1958. Advertisements emphasized the drug's complete safety, using phrases such as non-toxic and no known toxicity. Later, Thalidomide was marketed under the names Asmaval, Tensival, Valgis, and Valgraine and found to cause nerve damage and malformations in births.
Chemicals and plastics
Since 1915, during World War I, Distillers supplied industrial alcohol for making explosives. In 1922, it started to manufacture Discol-branded motor fuel made from alcohol. In 1928, it formed together with Turner and Newall the Carbon Dioxide Co Ltd to for sale of gas, a byproduct of their operations. In 1930, Distillers formed the British Industrial Solvents for production of acids and other solvents from industrial alcohol. In 1933, it formed Gyproc Products which was sold to British Plaster Board in 1944. In 1937, Distillers acquired British Resin Products. In 1939, it acquired a controlling stake in Commercial Solvents and 50% interest in BX Plastics, which full control was acquired in 1961. It followed by getting 48% shareholding in F. A. Hughes and Co. in 1941 and taking the full control in 1947. In 1947, F. A. Hughes and Co. was merged into British Resin.
In 1945, Distillers formed a joint venture British Geon with B. F. Goodrich to produce polyvinyl chloride and in 1954 it started a partnership named Distrene with Dow Chemicals to produce polystyrene. In 1955, it took full control of Magnesium Elektron. In 1967, BP acquired chemical and plastic assets of The Distillers Company which were merged with British Hydrocarbon Chemicals to form BP Chemicals.
Directors of note
- Guinness directors showed 'contempt for truth' BBC, 28 November 1997
- Diageo: History
- "Professor who found a niche in drugs industry; Sophie Freeman meets Professor Mike Rubenstein, chief executive of Quay Pharmaceuticals". 17 August 2005. Retrieved 2011-09-03.
- "Historic Agreement Secures Financial Future for Thalidomide Survivors" (Press release). 8 December 2005. Retrieved 2011-09-02.
- Sunday Times; Potter, Elaine (1971). Suffer the Children: The Story of Thalidomide. Viking Press. ISBN 0-670-68114-8. , pp. 42-46
- "Drugs firm celebrates 40 years". Liverpool Daily Post. Trinity Mirror North West & North Wales Limited. Retrieved September 2, 2011.
- "Distillers Co". Grace's Guide to British Industrial History. Retrieved 2017-06-18.
- Bamberg (2000), pp. 361–362
- Bamberg (2000), pp. 350–352
- Bamberg (2000), pp. 385–389
- Bamberg, James H (2000). The History of the British Petroleum Company: British Petroleum and Global Oil, 1950–1975: The Challenge of Nationalism. vol. III. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521785150.
- History page on Diageo website
- Documents and clippings about The Distillers Company in the 20th Century Press Archives of the German National Library of Economics (ZBW)
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