Also appears as:
- Columbia Graphophone Co Ltd
- Columbia Graphophone Co. Ltd.
- Columbia Graphophone Co. Limited
- Columbia Graphophone Company, Ltd.
- The Columbia Graphophone Co. Ltd.
Principal activities included the manufacture and sale of records, tapes and electronic products, sound recording, licensing, exploitation of copyrights, electronic research and development.
The roots of the company date back to May 1887 when American Graphophone Company was formed in the US. In 1894 this company & Columbia Phonograph Co. were consolidated to form Columbia Phonograph Company Gen'l, which in the 1900s registered a certain number of trademarks comprising (not exclusively) the word "Columbia", in the United States, UK, and other countries. In 1913 Columbia Phonograph Co. Gen'l was renamed Columbia Graphophone Company (CGC)
On 13 February 1917 "CGC" established Columbia Graphophone Company Ltd., to which it entrusted the management of its business in the UK & Europe. In the same year "CGC" transferred to this newly formed subsidiary the trademark rights (ownership) to the "Columbia" imprint for the UK and Europe.
In Dec 1917 Columbia Graphophone Manufacturing Company is established in the US. This company subsequently acquires American Graphophone Company holding in Columbia Graphophone Company & Columbia Graphophone Company Ltd.
In 1922 C.G.C.L. is divested and acquired by Constructive Finance Company Ltd. for $500.000 (a company established by Louis Sterling for a management buyout). As part of this acquisition it was agreed that C.G.C. L. should be at liberty to operate in specified territories, including the UK, Ireland, the continents of Europe and Africa, and certain Asian, Australasian and Pacific countries, with "CGC" at liberty to operate in the rest of the world. Due to this demerger, the ownership of American & European "Columbia" trademarks were now completely separated.
At a certain point between 1922 - 1925 the rights to the American "Columbia" trademarks became the property of a newly established company Columbia Phonograph Company, Inc., however in 1925 C.G.C.L. (in a reversal of roles) acquired a controlling interest in this company. In the same year it also acquired a substantial holding in Carl Lindström A.-G. (wholly acquired in 1926.), which traded as Parlophone and Parlophon although as part of a standalone subsidiary The Parlophone Co. Ltd.
On 3rd Oct 1925 Louis Sterling forms the umbrella holding company "Columbia International Ltd. Under this umbrella its 3 principal subsidiaries controlled operations:
- Columbia Graphophone Co. Ltd. - The Parlophone Co. Ltd., Générale des Machines Palantes Pathé Fréres, S.A. Pathé Belgique (1928), N.V. International Talking Machine Co. (Amsterdam), Società Italiana Di Fonotipia, Columbia Graphophone Companie Română S.A., Österreichische Columbia Graphophone (Vienna), Columbia Graphophone S.A.E. (San Sebastian), The Argentine Talking Machine Works, Transoceanic Trading Co., Nipponophone Co. Ltd. (1927), Columbia Graphophone (Aust.) Ltd., Industria Fonografica Chile. Columbia Phonograph Company, Inc. - Okeh Phonograph Corporation, Columbia Canada. - Carl Lindström A.-G. - Odeon Werke GmbH (Berlin), Beka-Record G.m.b.H., Grünebaum & Thomas AG, Lyrophon Werke GmbH, Da Capo Record Company mbH, Favorite Record AG, Homophon Company G.M.B.H., N.V. Transoceanic Talking Machine Co., Amsterdam., I. Polak Apparatebau-AG (IPAG AG)
On the 20th Apr 1931 Columbia International Ltd. (Columbia Graphophone Co. Ltd.) was merged with The Gramophone Co. Ltd. to form parent holding company Electric & Musical Industries Ltd. (EMI) with Sterling as MD. As part of this merger agreement Columbia International Ltd. was required to divest itself of its American operations. Columbia Phonograph Company, Inc. was subsequently transferred to Grigsby-Grunow Company in late 1931. In 1934 Grigsby-Grunow (then in liquidation) auctioned its interests in Columbia Phonograph Company, Inc., which was acquired by Sarco Enterprises, Inc. and subsequently transferred to American Record Corporation. In 1938 American Record Corp. was acquired by Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc. (CBS). In 1940 the assets of Columbia Phonograph Company, Inc. were transferred to American Record Corp, which was then renamed Columbia Recording Corporation, to become known as Columbia Records, Inc. in 1954.
Following the 1931 merger, Australian subsidiary Columbia Graphophone (Aust.) Pty. Ltd. (which had been established in 1925) was brought together with - Parlophone Co. Ltd. & The Gramophone Co. Ltd. (2), with record production being centralised at its Homebush facilities. In 1948 E.M.I. (Australia) Pty. Limited was formed to take over the operations of these 3 independent branches.
In 1936 French subsidiary Compagnie Générale des Machines Palantes Pathé Fréres (which was aquired in 1928) was merged with Cie Française Du Gramophone to form Les Industries Musicales Et Electriques Pathé Marconi.
Since 1922 there had been agreements in place between C.G.C.L. and the various US companies which took over the rights to the US Columbia mark. This included interchange of matrices and agreements not to sell in each other's territory to eliminate competition. In 1952 these agreements were terminated. Since C.G.C.L. could not use the Columbia mark to represent its products in the US, the parent company subsequently, in 1953, established Electric & Musical Industries (U.S.) Ltd. as an outlet for UK & European "Columbia" repertoire using T.G.C.L. "recording Angel" trademark Angel Records (The rights to this trademark, however, remained the intellectual property of The Gramophone Co. Ltd.).
From 1931 onwards C.G.C.L. operated in parallel with sister company T.G.C.L. at Hayes, closely collaborating on research and development projects relating to recorded music and electronics. Alan Blumlein, an electronics engineer who had joined the company in 1929 from Western Electric, would subsequently go on to invent binaural sound (stereophonic sound) as part of the combined research division Central Research Laboratories.
In 1956 the recorded music operations of Columbia Graphophone Co. Ltd. and subsidiary The Parlophone Co. Ltd. are brought under the E.M.I. Records Limited umbrella, which was established by Electric & Musical Industries Ltd. to head its record division (outside the US).
In June 1965 Columbia Graphophone Company Ltd., The Parlophone Co. Ltd. ,and E.M.I. Records Limited were merged into The Gramophone Co. Ltd. (with the rights to the various imprints and back catalogues passing to this company, which included Columbia, Parlophone, Odeon, Regal, etc.) In 1973 The Gramophone Co. Ltd. was renamed EMI Records Ltd.; in 1990 this company would sell the "Columbia" trademark rights to Sony Music Entertainment Inc..