Cunard-Eagle Merger

In I960 Eagle was acquired by the Cunard Steamship Company. Bamberg explains: “Lord Brocklebank [Cunard’s chairman] came into my office with a bowler hat and an umbrella saying he wanted to talk to me. In I960 about a million people crossed the Atlantic by air and they knew the day of regular crossings by the big boats was virtually over. Cunard wanted to follow the other shipping companies and get into the aviation business. We did a deal and I became the aviation director of Cunard. They needed good management.”


BOAC was also losing money. “The culture was one of trade unionism and they were losing the British share,” Bamberg recalls. “We had the opportunity, with the minister’s blessing, to join up with Cunard, which, by that time had bought 60 percent of Eagle.” The resulting £30 million company, known as Cunard-Eagle, applied to fly scheduled services across the north Atlantic and won the right to operate one flight a day. BOAC appealed, citing its order for 45 VCI0s and a promise by the aviation minister that there would be no other British competitor on the route.


But Cunard Eagle had also ordered new aircraft. “We had three Boeing 707s and nothing for them to do which is why I started the Miami route,” Bamberg remembered. BOAC won the appeal but was still not satisfied. “Its chairman, Sir Matthew Slattery, contacted Brocklebank wanting to do a deal with him and get rid of us. They made a very strong proposition. Cunard turned about three of them down but they accepted the fourth.”


Bamberg had been kept in the dark. “I was consulted at the very end. A lot of it was done under cover. Cunard actually did a deal to form another £30 million company with I0 Boeings on the north Atlantic. They were offered a controlling interest but Brocklebank didn’t want that. He settled for a third. Our three Boeings were transferred to BOAC-Cunard.”


Bamberg lost patience with the new set-up. “The tea and biscuits were all right but when it came to management it wasn’t my cup of tea. I didn’t agree with their culture.” He resigned and subsequently bought back what was left of his company.