Monday, May 1, 2017

Harry Sturgeon and the BSA Story


January 1961 group photo of John Cunningham, Harry Sturgeon, J.P. Smith,  Sir Geoffrey de Havilland and C.T. Wilkins.  Since there's not much to go on, I can't identify the aircraft in the background.

(Wilkins (far right) was Chief Designer at de Havilland at the time when this photo was taken.  He certainly was a tall man!)

When Edward Turner retired as Managing Director from the BSA Board in 1964, Bert Hopwood had hoped to get the job.  Instead it went to Harry Sturgeon.  From what I've read, he was an approachable and dynamic businessman.  An international business consultant had recommended that Triumph and BSA be folded into one organization, and Sturgeon pursued this agenda.  Unlike his predecessor, he was also convinced that Triumph needed to remain involved in racing.  He pressed hard for greater motorcycle production.  Indeed, during his tenure, BSA turnover improved by nearly 40 percent. Unfortunately, he was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 1966 and died shortly afterwards.  His job went to Lionel Jofeh, who had been recruited from the aircraft industry.  Jofeh has not been judged kindly by motorcycle industry historians, and is credited with a number of disastrous moves, including the relocation to Umberslade Hall, derisively called "Slumberglade Hall" by some people who worked there.  For the once mighty BSA and Triumph motorcycle firms, it was the beginning of the end. 

Who knows what might have been if Harry Sturgeon hadn't died?

Harry Sturgeon, O.B.E.


Photos courtesy of a fellow Norton enthusiast who also happens to be a nephew of  the late Mr. Sturgeon.  He found the photos while going through a box of pictures for his mother's memorial, and kindly gave permission for me to use them in this post.  Thanks Andy!

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