About Us – where did the last 50 years go?!
This is the story of the UK's oldest audio visual company, established in 1960 with a mission to become "a first class photographic service to industry".
1960 – Harry Gordon MC (former ADC and later son-in-law to Viscount Wavell, the penultimate Viceroy of India) incorporates Gordon Cameras Ltd in London with backing from Viscount Hambledon of W.H.Smith fame, and entrepreneur Arthur Hurlstone, better known as Hurley.
The day after the company was incorporated, Harry wrote to Peter Harris, then head of the photographic team in the Aeronautics Department at Cranfield. In his letter he set out his vision for the company, and set out an ethos we have looked to maintain ever since – "Apart from being successful we must endeavour to ensure that everyone enjoys his work because only then does he do it really well.". This photo graced the Gordons' Christmas card in 1960.
In order to deal with Kodak in the days of Retail Price Mechanism legislation, the company needed a retail outlet, and the store opened in April 1960 at 45 Kensington High Street, with Dame Margot Fonteyn carrying out the opening ceremony. The store was disposed of in 1963 when it became clear that the business should be more than a simple retail outlet, and should instead focus on distribution and on technical services. The business attracted the attention of global manufacturers including Hitachi.
Sadly, Harry Gordon was not to see the heights of the Company's success, as he passed away on 19 June 1965. Hurley's investment vehicle Gresham Management & Investment Company took full control of the business, and its name was changed to Gordon Audio Visual Ltd in 1972. We moved to Oxford Circus to focus on the import and distribution of traditional audio visual products to the AV industry through a network of dealers.
When Hurley died in the 1970s, the board – including Peter Harris, the first employee, and Martin Ellwood, the future Managing Director – continued to drive the business forwards, winning numerous awards.
The hire division continued to develop alongside this distribution business to service the London area. In 1981 we moved to a Gresham property in Camden Town. With Gresham now owned primarily by Hurley's son Robin, an art dealer who was not actively involved in the business, the business was run on a day-to-day basis by Martin Ellwood, Managing Director.
Gordons was purchased by Phenomenon Group plc in December 2001, with Nick Clark taking over as Managing Director on Martin's retirement. The hire business was invested in heavily and has since grown to become the largest source of revenue for the Group. Meanwhile the distribution business is focused on the high growth eBeam range of portable interactive systems manufactured by Luidia Inc.
An office was opened in Sheffield in 2005 to offer an improved hire service in Sheffield, Manchester and throughout the north of England, as well as to provide warehousing and logistics for the distribution stock.
The Group acquired Gray Audio Visual in 2006, extending its range of products and services to include large event hire, filming and production. Further investment has led to the design and build of modern facilities to include edit suites and a recording studio. This is sited on the top floor of "The Old Torpedo Factory", our London Headquarters, which the Group acquired in March 2008. Despite the recession later that year and into 2009, the business opened a Thames Valley branch to develop local business in the region and enhance our ability to offer a nationwide service.
The Group has 30 shareholders, with the chairman, the three other directors, and current and former employees owning over 95% of the shares between them.