Most of you will know the name “Bob Gregory”. For those of you who don’t, this chap was the Managing Director of Samuel Gawith, the legendary English tobacco manufacturer. I got to know Bob at one of the InterTabac fairs I visited, because of his involvement in creating the KPC (Kearvaig Pipe Club, of which I am a member) Bothy Flake (which sadly has just fallen of the Gawith & Hoggarth price list..). Bob is a real British gentleman with a wicked sense of humour, so we pretty much hit it off right off the bat. Later Bob got involved in the creation of Flatlander Flake, made for the Dutch/Belgian Pipe Smokers Forum. And then you get to know someone. He didn’t have to make or create anything with me/for the forum. But he went out his way to accomplish it. Sadly for us, some time after the merge of Samuel Gawith/Gawith & Hoggarth he decided to retire and leave the company.
I already knew Bob’s split from the company wasn’t particularly amicable. But in public he kept his mouth shut. Lately I was web-surfing on the PipesMagazine.com forum when I came across a topic with a post (#76) from user “gawithhoggarth”. In real life Rachel Gawith, Social Media Manager of Gawith & Hoggarth and involved in their HR & Health and Safety. What I read made my blood boil, such blatant lies were made! On top of that came the disrespect for the former management (Bob) and their clients (us pipesmokers). So I decided to engage. We had a couple of discussions but in the end I called a truce. She’s like an ostrich, constant putting down her head in the sand. You can’t communicate with someone like that.
When Bob knew about the thread he read it and was absolutely fuming. So for the first time he decided to publicly unveil the story about why the business of Samuel Gawith was sold to Gawith & Hoggarth in May 2015. He send me a long email which I could publish. I suggest that you, the reader, first look at the topic on the PipesMagazine.com forum and then read Bob’s mail below.
Recently, I have been reading some very inaccurate things about what happened to Samuel Gawith in 2015. Well Arno, here I am to put things straight with the true story of why we sold the Business of Samuel Gawith. Remember I was there and it was me that was solely in charge of this sale, so there can be no argument about the truth.
First, I have read that prior to the sale of the Samuel Gawith business the company was bankrupt! Nothing could be further from the truth! We ended our 223 year history in a very healthy state with an excellent bank balance, no debts to anyone and a very full order book.
I have also read that there was no involvement of a Gawith or Gawith descendant involved in the business during the latter years. Wrong! One of the directors was a relative of the Samuel Gawith clan and is, today, still very much alive.
It has also been said that the then owner of the company lost interest. Well, nothing could be further from the truth. His sole interest was to retire in the knowledge that the business and brands of Samuel Gawith continued and continued under a British company. We rejected an offer from a well known European manufacturer. An overseas company would have, no doubt, used the opportunity to own a well known brand only to do nothing with it or for it.
I took over the role of Managing Director in 2009 after the then Managing Director had the good fortune to win the National Lottery and decided to retire early. A number of significant changes took place under my management, including that of concentrating on gaining a solid export market. Samuel Gawith was of course trading within the UK market but not as well as Gawith & Hoggarth. This due to the fact that earlier management decisions had been taken to lose the sales force and to entrust the sales to an external company. This was not a priority for them so the arrangement did not bear fruit.
Pretty quickly we had some important markets to supply, USA, Germany and Switzerland were the first markets to start trading. By the time of 2015 we were trading with in excess of 35 overseas markets from Japan and Australia in the East, to the US and Argentina in the West which provided about 80% of the revenue. In the meantime costs had been seriously reduced, extra staff were producing volumes of finished product as never before seen. This prompted the thought that we would be needing new machinery, extra staff and a larger factory to cope with demand for our tobacco and snuff products.
In the meantime I had reached and gone past a retirement date and the owner was in his late 70’s and wanted an easier retirement. Our search for a successor was not going well as we had already employed two potentials to run the business. But for legal reasons which cannot be commented on, they did not stay with the company. The decision was taken by the Board of Directors that the future for Samuel Gawith was in a suitable UK based stable.
I approached the then Managing Director of Gawith & Hoggarth as to the possibility of a merging of the two companies, in order to safeguard the future of the Samuel Gawith business. I did not know any of the Gawith family and they did not know me, whereas I had had a good business relationship with their Managing Director. Terms were agreed between the two of us and, alas, my dreams of a retirement (I was 70) was dashed as part of the deal was that some of the Samuel Gawith staff and me would transfer over to continue the production within the larger Gawith & Hoggarth factory.
This happened in May of 2015 and staff, some machinery and the order book, worth some £200K (remember, we were “bankrupt”..) moved and continued to produce Samuel Gawith tobaccos and snuff as it had done since 1792. All markets were informed of this change and not one market was inconvenienced by this.
The original Samuel Gawith machinery. Part of this was moved to the Gawith & Hoggarth factory and the major part of the machinery was offered to various trusts and museums in the Kendal area. The only offer we had was from a local museum, who wanted all of the machinery but also the factory. They wanted this for nothing.. The machinery was sent to a good “tobacco” friend of ours in the Netherlands. Today, it has been completely refurbished and stands in pride of place as part of their heritage museum (edit Arno: the Othmar brewery in Ootmarsum). The factory was sold to a local printer.
In 2018 the then Managing Director was “moved” and things immediately began to change. The methods of production that had stood the brand in good stead for over 200 years and bred success, was called into question and declared “wrong”!
It was intimated that I attended major trade functions, but as we were “bankrupt” I had a stand in the corridors as opposed to the main halls. For instance, I attended the Dortmund InterTabac fair from 2004 through to 2018 and very successfully set up our stand in Hall 4 stand B14. So to claim that we were in a corridor is so stupid and ignorant of the author! I’m sure that if any checks were made my claim of H4B14 would be substantiated. But of course Arno, you were there! (edit Arno: Yes I was, multiple times). Anyway, by the time 2019 came I had had enough of arguing with people who had little or no knowledge, so I decided to call it a day and retire. So finally that day came.
I shall also comment on the tobacco tins, the condition of which seemed to have been lain at the “previous managements“ feet. In 2017/2018 it became known that Glud and Marstrand, a tin manufacturer, was about to end production of the well known “square tin”. This was because overall the main producers were using the round tin. Our production machines were set up for the square tin and Samuel Gawith were known and recognised for their well decorated tins. I persuaded the Glud and Marstrand company to do a further 120,000 tin run to keep us going, until my talks with other manufacturers could resolve a situation.
Also we found another 10,000 tins in the UK and, very kindly, Kohlhase & Kopp sent us a further 5000 tins. This quantity gave us good breathing space. But of course I was in trouble for having such high stocks! Lucky I did! In late 2018 we got samples from a Chinese maker which were exact replicas of the original tin. They sealed well (I still have some of their samples, still properly sealed) and did not buckle. They certainly did not need cardboard inserts or plastic over wraps in order to pretend to be sealed. These sealed! Before I left all details were given to the new people for them to act upon. When I left Samuel Gawith tobaccos were still being packed in Glud and Marstrand tins and were properly sealed. So to blame previous management…!
Despite all, cheers all and “Laing mae y’lum reek“ or in Blighty speak “May your smoke continue to rise“.