Sam Norman - The Founder of BAL-AMi
The following article appeared in a local
Ilford newspaper on March 8th, 1962, the week after Sam Norman died.
The full text of the article above
is as follows:
Legend of the man who needed
£1,000 a week to live
A rough diamond with a heart of
gold. That was Sam Norman, uncrowned 'Jukebox King of Europe'. The
dynamic businessman who became a law unto himself, and a legend in his
Sam Norman, a man so ruthless in
his business dealings, that a hired bodyguard stayed close beside him
as he flew from Britain to Paris, and on to European capitals,
negotiating contracts that were to bring him a king-size fortune.
Now Samuel Eric Norman, the man
sometimes revered, sometimes hated, by rival business tycoons, is
dead. He was just 47 when he died peacefully in University College
Hospital, London, last week. And behind him lies the memory of a
true-to-life rags to riches fable ... a tale of an Ilford
schoolboy who grew to live in a breathtakingly beautiful hilltop villa
in France. To own a £70,000 luxury motor-yacht in the Mediterranean
and to pilot his own aircraft across the world.
For this man the road to success
was exactly 25 years long. It carried him smoothly along from the day
he inherited a managing directorship upon his father's death till the
day he died. The firm which expanded to be one of the country's
leading aircraft component manufacturers under Norman's shrewd control
was Ilford's Balfour (Marine) Engineering Company.
But the restless magnate only
widened the horizon of his ambitions as Balfour prospered. He took a
long hard look into the future, and prophesied the trend of things to
come. Then he set about reorganising the production of the factory.
Soon Mr.Norman, ignoring vicious
threats from the tangled underworld of the jukebox jungle, was
flooding the markets in Britain and the Continent with his machines.
He called them 'BAL-AMi', set up a second factory at Le Touquet to
produce them. Sometimes, he remembered earlier days and the warm glow
of good living. Then he would step from his £40,000 home in Manor
Road, Chigwell (incorporating swimming pool, go-kart race track and
ballroom) into his dignified £9,000 gold Bentley Continental.
"Just for the sheer hell of it",
Sam Norman would call at clubs and cafes, pouring thousands of
sixpences from his jukeboxes into hundredweight sacks he took with
"It costs me £1,000 a week to live"
claimed Norman once at one of his spectacular all-night champagne
parties at Chigwell. And that it did.
His planes were based at Southend
airport, his green £6,000 Ferrari and red Bentley awaited him at Le
Touquet and his yacht, one of the most graceful to be seen, nestled
gently into the harbour at Cannes, the millionaires playground.
His friends in the south of France
included impresario Jack Hylton: "I will remember Sam for his
joviality. It was 'hail fellow, well met'. He knew the fashion of good
living, and he drew from life the fullest measure."
In Ilford his business friends and
associates saw another face of the high-powered director. Said one,
who knew Norman from the days when he went to Christchurch School and
"We knew him as a hard bargaining businessman, with
a kind and generous heart. he never hesitated to help someone less
fortunate than himself. When a young lad living in St.Mary's Road,
Ilford, was orphaned by a bomb during the war, Sam was the first one
to go to his aid with a substantial financial gift. That brought a lot
of pleasure to Sam. And to achieve something nobody else could do, did
as well. Like the time he demanded an audience with the Pope in the
Vatican, and got it as well. To prove it to his friends in London he
brought back a bottle of wine from the Vatican cellars and banged it
down on the table at the Albany Club."
If Norman had selected his own
epitaph the choice might have been brutally stark: perhaps "Samuel
Eric Norman, born Ilford 1915 - died London 1962".
The knowledge of what lay between
those dates would most probably have been satisfaction enough for his
The photo caption reads: "Sammy
Norman at the controls of his aircraft, and (top), his palatial