News and views from north Bristol's urban village

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Highbridge, Wikileaks, Tyco and Lord Ashcroft

I always knew there was something special about Highbridge, north Somerset's answer to Morecombe, and ugly sister to Burnham-on-Sea. Behind the town’s modest appearance, the caravan capital of north Somerset has been slowly, quietly and unassumingly playing the role of Pillar of Western Civilization.

The modest estuary town’s vital role in the trans-Atlantic alliance has only come to light this week thanks to information from Wikileaks which refers to Highbridge as a site of “critical infrastructure” of vital national interest to the United States.

Fancy that.

The leaked diplomatic cable groups the town, along with a range of other infrastructure and supply lines around the world, under America’s National Infrastructure Protection Plan (NIPP). The leaked cable specifically refers to the “Tyco Translantic undersea cable landing” at Highbridge.

A simple Google search then reveals Tyco’s factory in Highbridge, a non-descript warehouse on an industrial estate on Lawrence Close.

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Ironically, considering how easy it appears to have been to access this information, the overarching goal of the NIPP is:

“to build a safer, more secure, and more resilient America by enhancing protection of the nation's Critical Infrastructure to prevent, deter, neutralize or mitigate the effects of deliberate efforts by terrorists to destroy, incapacitate or exploit them."

So, there we have it.

Tyco, originally registered in Massachusetts and floated on the New York Stock Exchange, is a vast multi-national corporation specialising in the infrastructure of electronics, telecommunications, networks, and, predictably, defence.

The company has an interesting and turbulent history. In the 1990s, for instance, Tyco engaged on a ferocious policy of acquisitions of other companies. Some reports claim that up to 1,000 companies were bought by Tyco during this frenzied decade.

British (or should that be Belizean) interest in Tyco surfaces in 1997 when Tyco was taken over (it was technicality a merger) by ADT, controlled at the time by none other than everyone’s favourite non-domicile, Lord Ashcroft. The company then transferred its place of incorporation to Bermuda.

The rash of acquisitions came to haunt Tyco when it was embroiled in a huge accounting scandal centred on its former CEO Dennis Kozlowski. Over 30 charges were brought against senior figures within the company.

Current CEO Tom Lynch joined Tyco in 2004, in the wake of the corruption scandal, becoming CEO in 2006. Mr Lynch currently serves on President Obama’s National Security Telecommunications Advisory Board, from which he is presumably well placed to reflect on the extremely close relationship between America’s foreign military policy and the business opportunities for a company which sells the electronic infrastructure necessary to maintain a state of permanent war.

Total profits for Tyco Electronics (the parent company is now registered in Switzerland) for 2008 are $14.3 billion. As well as its undersea cables, Tyco is also a regular supplier of electronic equipment for military aircraft, missile defence, submarines and battle tanks.

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Anonymous said...

You don't seem to have separated the various segments of Tyco very well there. The Schaffhausen (Swiss) corporate office covers the fire and security business, the "original" Tyco if you like that remained after a de-merger some years back. The other key areas of Tyco International at the time, Tyco Healthcare (now Covidien) and Tyco Electronics both spun off and created their own independent businesses. Although Electronics carried the name Tyco, they are now about to re-brand and drop this name once and for all, and it is within this business that the "SubCom" division resides.

As for the acquisition madness of the late 90's into the 2000's that you refer to, quoting 1,000 acquired businesses is way off the mark - you are looking at more than 3,500 globally, most of which were eventually absorbed into the larger operations with company names becoming, for a short time at least, brand names, before being quietly dissolved.

Al Shaw said...

Dear Anonymous,

You're right. I don't really feel that I have a handle on the corporate structure of Tyco. Partly, I guess, this is because it is so large and because it changes shape regularly.

Thanks for filling in some of the gaps. Any additional information would be welcome.

Thanks for commenting.

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