A&BC Chewing Gum Ltd. – a brief history – part 4

Part 4 – The end of A&BC Chewing Gum

After many years there was a falling out between A&BC and Topps, and litigation followed. While A&BC were preparing for the court case there was a large fire at their factory in Spilsby Road, Harold Hill around Guy Fawkes night in 1972 or 1973. Tony remembers that it must have been around 8pm when the alarm was sounded, as he remembers that they had friends to dinner and one of them came out to the factory with him. Tony remembers that after the fire they were back in business fairly quickly as they had taken out consequential loss insurance coverage.



The Coakley brothers ended up with a month of litigation in the High Court in June 1974. After an expensive month in court the brothers lost the case and, as per their licence agreement, the business was wound up.

Some lawyers have since expressed an opinion that A&BC should not have lost the court case, but they did. It cost the Coakleys dearly as they had sunk everything into the Company and also suffered the expense of the Court case. At the time the company folded it had 350 employees. They had to leave behind six Card Gum wrapping machines, producing 200 packs per minute, and wrapping machines for Bazooka which wrapped at 500 pieces per minute, usually worked on 3 shifts. Most of this machinery had been either modified or made by A&BC in their own engineering works in their own engineering works under the supervision of their Chief Engineer, Mr Charlie Ford, who had worked for the company from its inception.

Topps Chewing Gum took over where A&BC Chewing Gum ended. They produced their first set of football cards under the Topps Bazooka Limited name in 1975. They continued each year until 1981, after which they became occasional producers of football cards. In 1995 they acquired Merlin, and became major producers of football cards again in the late 1990s.

For A&BC Chewing Gum 1974 brought a sad end to a great story. The company is now gone, but certainly not forgotten, particularly by card aficionados. Mr Tony Coakley remembers that it was a fun business producing products that appealed to children, and that there was never a dull moment. When things went right, when developing or installing new machinery, planning factory extensions, there was great satisfaction to be had. For 25 years, the best part of their working lives, A&BC Chewing Gum gave Douglas and Tony Coakley hard work, success and satisfaction. For collectors they have left a large legacy of brilliant cards and other memorabilia which ensures that the company will remain a favourite for many years to come.





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