Wood, Kenneth Maynard 1916 - 1997

English; British

(1916 - 1997), electrical manufacturer

Kenneth Maynard Wood was born on the 4th October 1916 in Lewisham London. At the age of 14 he left Bromley county school to go to sea, signing on for four years as a cadet on SS Hartlepool, bound for South America. When he returned in 1934 he enrolled in evening classes in electrical engineering, mechanical drawing, and accountancy. Two years later he set up his own company with a partner - Dickson & Wood - installing and repairing radios and televisions. At the outbreak of the Second World War he sold the company and joined the RAF, where he spent the war designing electronic equipment, including radar simulators for the navy.

After the war, in 1947, with a colleague Roger Laurence, Wood set up Woodlau Industries in a small workshop at 79 Goldsmith Road, Woking, Surrey. Here he launched his first product the A100 turnover toaster followed by the A200 food mixer - the predecessor to the Kenwood Chef - which went on the market in 1948. After he moved to a factory in Hipley Street, Old Woking, he was able to turn out 575 mixers a week. At this point Laurence left the company, which was renamed the Kenwood Manufacturing Company in 1949. Wood improved the food mixer and created the Kenwood Chef which was launched at the Ideal Home Exhibition in 1950; it was an instant success. One factor in Wood's success was the conviction that to sell a product he had to make people want to buy it. To this end he trained demonstrators to take the Kenwood Chef into department stores and electricity board showrooms, and also into school domestic science departments, in the hope that when the pupils got married they would ask for a Kenwood Chef as a wedding present.

Wood extended his range to other domestic appliances, introducing the Kenmix blender (1951), the electric knife-sharpener (1952), the Steam-O-Matic steam iron (1954), and the rotisserie, with an eye-level grill (1958). In 1958 the company acquired Dishmaster, maker of dishwashing machines and garbage disposal units, and launched a new, fully automatic Dishmaster in 1959, anticipating the day when the dishwasher would be as essential a kitchen appliance as the refrigerator or the washing machine.

In 1958 Wood decided it was time to break into the commercial appliance market, and he arranged a merger with Peerless and Ericsson, manufacturers of equipment for commercial and institutional kitchens. Peerless and Ericsson, a public company, took over Kenwood, dropping their own name and adopting that of Kenwood Manufacturing Company. Wood remained managing director and became deputy chairman of the new public company. He travelled extensively to promote Kenwood products, and by 1959 exports accounted for 65 per cent of the company's output, with subsidiaries in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and several European countries.

In the early 1960s the company suffered a severe set-back when it tried to move into the refrigerator and home freezer market, lured by the hot summer of 1959, at the same time as the expensive move to a new purpose-built factory in Havant and the closure of the Woking factory. It cost the company £200,000 to withdraw from the refrigerator market but by 1964 recovery was underway. However, when Thorn Electrical Industries made a hostile takeover bid of £9.3 million, nearly doubling the price of the shares on the stock exchange, shortly after the company's twenty-first birthday celebrations in 1968, Wood agreed to the offer, and, heartbroken, he resigned from the board.

Wood was managing director of Dawson-Keith Holdings, an electrical power-plant manufacturer, from 1972 to 1980. He developed new business ventures, including the Forest Mere health farm at Liphook, Hampshire, and a 350 acre golf course in the grounds of his house.

In 1993 Wood was listed by Business Age as one of the 500 richest individuals in Britain, worth £24.5 million

He died at his home, Dellwood Cottage, Wheatsheaf Enclosure, Liphook, Hampshire, on 19 October 1997.