Abstract: Seagram Comes to Scotland: The Role of Local Players in the Overseas Expansion of a Canadian Multinational, 1949-1965

Graham D. Taylor


In this paper, I assess the Seagram Company's investment in Britain after World War II through Robert Brown, Ltd., a U.K. subsidiary, its first major expansion outside the North American continent. I argue that this direct investment in Britain was less a matter of corporate strategic policy and more the result of a convergence of factors. These include the personal and entrepreneurial ambitions of key figures in Seagram, particularly Jimmy Barclay; the efforts by British managers, especially John Chiene, to establish Robert Brown, Ltd., as an integrated operating company within the Seagram system; and the impact of British policies on import barriers, exchange controls, and exports of capital that established the parameters within which Seagram operated throughout the 1950s. Ultimately, the transformation of the British subsidiary from a small sales agency to a full-scale production and distribution organization laid the groundwork for Seagram's overseas expansion in the ensuing decades.

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