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Interview with David Pleasance
(Interview realized by Philippe Ferrucci and excerpt from Amiga Power - April 2013)


David Pleasance - As several years passed, can you tell us some bits about you?

I am a Sales & Marketing professional with many years experience within major "Blue-chip" companies at international level. These companies include:
  • The Provident Group - UK - Consumer/Retailer Finance.
  • Bankcard Australia - Mass credit card set up by 11 Australian banks (prior to Visa/M/card).
  • 3M Company (Scotch Brand) (world's n°26 largest company - 87000 products).
  • Pioneer Electronics - Australia - Worldwide leader in consumer electronics/car audio.
  • Commodore 1983 - 1995.
- Can you refresh our memories and tell some bits about your job at Commodore UK? How was your relation with CBM USA?

I joined Commodore UK in June/July 1983 to a newly created position, CBM Sales Manager (business product), in large english distribution channels.

In October 1983, I was promoted to National Sales Manager for consumer products (VIC-20, C64, etc.).

In August 1985, Commodore release the Amiga 1000.

During this period between 1985 to 1989, I was responsible for the marketing and sales for the entire series of Commodore and Amiga products in the english retail sector. This included Dixons, Currys, John Lewis Comet, British Home Stores, Debenhams Boots, Tesco, Asda, WHSmith. I have established a network of wholesalers who were delivering products to 3500 retailers.

During this period, I created the idea of "bundles" which added to the product many games, creative and productivity software (such as the famous Batman Pack). I created here my slogan "We don't sell computers - we sell dreams". As a result at this success, in 1989 I was promoted to Director of Sales and Marketing - Commodore UK (this was the first ever internal board appointment in the Commodore's history).

Batman Pack

In June 1990, I became CEO of Commodore Electronics Ltd (the parent company), based in Basel, Switzerland, making reports directly to Mehdi Ali, the CEO. I was in charge of the companies (37 exactly) where Commodore had no office. I stayed in this position for the UK market, and was constantly advising on this issue.

In January 1992, I was appointed Vice President of Commodore USA, however I continued reporting directly to Mehdi Ali (not to the US company president). I spent 1 year in the USA during which time I re-instated trading with all the major retailers (Sears, Wall-Mart, Tandy, Comp USA, Best Buy, etc.). I introduced them to the concept of bundles, and (using our UK connections) created some US specific Amiga 1200 packs. However, because I was aware of the imminent release of our 32 bit products, I did not want to overload our US retail channels with 16 bit machines only to face the same problems again.

So in January 1993 I returned to my role as General Manager CEL (supposedly until the 32 bit products were released) however due to Commodore International's financial instability, Mehdi Ali insisted I return to the UK (our most solid and best performing market) and guide us through what were clearly very turbulent times.

In March 1993, I was appointed Managing Director of CBM UK Ltd (where I had started as a salesman 10 years earlier!). For the record, I had been offered the MD role when Steve Franklin was being replaced, but I turned it down. This was because there are two types of Sales people, "Hunters" & "Farmers" and I am absolutely a "Hunter" forging new relationships, searching out new territories and hunting for wider and more lateral distribution channels. Having just landed the CEL role at that time, I declined the UK role, and recommended Kelly Sumner (who had been my second in command for most of my time in the UK office).

Upon the launch of the CD32, I decided to hit Sega (who were our biggest competitor for that product genre) where it would really hurt the most. This is a good example of my style of marketing, be different, be aggressive, look outside the circle.

Commodore and Sega
Commodore ad for CD32

David Pleasance and Chris Evans.jpg
David Pleasance and Chris Evans for the CD32 launch

- How did you feel about your job? Was it cool/difficult, and why?

Did I like/dislike my time at Commodore? I have to say, whilst there were very many difficult issues about how Commodore was being (badly) run from the top, every minute of every hour of every day I absolutely loved my varied roles within Commodore, and can say in all honesty I would still be there if the company had survived. I miss it immensely.

- When Commodore was going bankrupt you tried to buy it but couldn't make it (Escom did). You were pretty confident about the end of the buyout. So what went wrong?

I believe I and my joint MD Colin Proudfoot (financials) were genuinely the most knowledgeable senior executives within the whole company in relation to a long term future for the brand on a global basis.

The UK company was absolutely the most solid business out of all the subsidiary offices (which can be endorsed by the fact that whilst all the other subsidiary companies themselves went bankrupt very quickly after the parent company failed, CBM UK kept trading for a further 18 months.).

We calculated that in order to buy the worldwide assets of Commodore, and more importantly to provide finance (working capital - remember Commodore left a wake of debts to all the suppliers, components, packaging, etc.), we would need to raise approximately $50 million. Clearly Colin and I did not have those funds, so we approached Coopers & Lybrand (very credible in raising investment funds) to see what could be achieved.

Our business plan was very comprehensive, focussed and most importantly credible. So C&L called in some potential investors, with a view to forming a consortium, who jointly would raise the required $50 million.

They were very successful in attracting sufficient interest, and when Colin and I made our presentations to each potential investor we garnered enough commitment (in principle) to raise the required amount. Half of the investment, $25 million, was promised by a chinese manufacturing company (New Star Electronics), who had up until then been manufacturing games consoles (illegally) and who clearly had the capacity to manufacture our products at a low cost... a very important factor.

The balance of the funds were to be provided by individual wealthy investors, with Colin & I heading up the worldwide management of the entity. Of course all investment was to be made provided everybody fulfilled their commitment and collectively reached the $50 million that was clearly needed.

We all commenced "Due Diligence" (the process where all rights, patents, licences and Inventories are confirmed and validated as being transferable and included in the asset sale). During this process, including visits to the Technical Engineering & Development departments, we became aware of the interest of a competitor for the purchase of the assets, a company called Escom (a german PC manufacturer and retailer). Included in the executive line up of the Escom bidders was the ex-GM of Commodore Netherlands.

To cut a long story short, just 48 hours before the auction was to be held (in New York) our Chinese "friends" pulled out of our Consortium, as they had been lured into joining forces with Escom with all sorts of unqualified promises (allegedly).

Clearly with only 48 hours notice, we had no chance to replace that $25 million investment so we were forced to abandon our bid. Escom bought the Commodore assets for approximately $10 million (within our estimated purchase cost) (interestingly New Star Electronics were immediately dumped by Escom and ended up with nothing). This was almost certainly one of the most stupid actions taken by Escom as not many months later Escom themselves went bankrupt.

The business was not viable without the extra capital needed to fund the purchase of all the componenets and assembly of the products, for at least 6-8 months, because all the suppliers had been left with huge debts by Commodore and there was no way they would supply on credit terms. We would have to pay cash up front for everything. The fact Escom themselves went bankrupt absolutely justifies our accurate due dilligence and forecast of how much money was needed in working capital.

Knowing we did have enough with only $25 million from which we would have to pay $10 million for the assets, we knew it was not a financially viable business so did not bid.

- In 1994, you said a RISC machine was planned. Can you tell us more about it? Specifications?

I am not a very technical person, however what I was shown being developed (during our "Due Diligence" process) I found to be mind blowing (though it was in very early prototype form at that time). The engineers had taken a basic (but very powerful RISC chip) and were combining it with the addition of full 3D rendering, multi channel audio, graphics generation and much more (over my head!). All I know is that this was the most significant technical advance in Commodore's history. Interesting that NO ONE subsequently involved in Amiga or Commodore even bothered to try to resurrect it or proceed. What a complete waste!

- Are you still in contact with ex-employees from Commodore USA/UK?

I am in occasional contact with some of my Commodore colleagues, mostly in the UK but also Colin Proudfoot (who I had lunch with recently) and John Di Lullo in the USA.

- Do you know something about the current Amiga situation? Or are you bored when someone tells you the "Amiga" name?

I have not kept up with the technology advances of Amiga as I am no longer involved in the industry (I was never very technology smart at the best of times, though I was always able to identify opportunities for new technology to be utilised).

I am never "bored" discussing Amiga. It gave me the best 12 years+ of my career, and I genuinely believe that had the company not gone bankrupt (or if we had succeeded in our management buy out attempt). I would still be involved with the product/brand.

- You said once "We don't sell computers, we sell dreams." Do you sell dreams today? What's your current job?

I am more or less retired now, as at my age it is very difficult to find a meaningful position which can utilise my extensive international experience.

I believe I have still got alot to offer in the selling/marketing of IT products, especially products for sale through retail channels.

- How do you see your future? In the IT, in music or retired at home?

As it happens, my current interest is managing my (2) sons band, The Marcel Pleasance Band. Marcel writes and sings the songs, plus plays guitar, keyboards, bass and percussion. Emile (my youngest) plays bass and harmonica, plus we have a drummer/percussionist Chris Gill. Check out: www.marcelpleasance.com (webarchive) and www.youtube.com/user/marcelpleasancemusic, so it is music which has my attention right now.


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