Chapter 9

A Phoenix arisen


Jean-Claude Talar


Now the dominoes fell. ITL Kathmill went into receivership on the 20th February, 1985, owed 100,000 by Oric. The first private user group was formed by a Mr. J. Hibbons, the Byte Drive User Group . When ITL went under Peter Halford had, interestingly, been in the final stages of perfecting a Z80 second processor board for the Oric, using CP/M 2.2 software. ITL had even purchased a CP/M licence from Digital Research. The scene now turns to the Receiver s efforts to dispose of Oric. There were apparently at least six bidders - A.S.N. itself, the A.S.N. former managing director, Denis Taieb; the Spanish owners of Dragon, Eurohard SA; a French company, S.P.I.D.; an Indian company; and last but not least the irrepressible Barry Muncaster and Paul Harding, who according to Hebdo in France were associated with Denis Taieb. For three months they all wheeled and dealt with the Receiver, Dennis Cross of Chater & Myhill.

Plans to set up at Longwy were fading fast as French micro makers Thomson and Matra put pressure on their technology minister (one Edith Cresson) to drop the project. Dennis Cross kept on a skeleton staff of five at Oric s Feltham factory just in case a buyer interested in UK assembly could be found. The company's main asset was its 3 million worth of unsold stock, mostly Atmos machines, plus "a sizeable book debt from A.S.N.", and designs for the Stratos.

On the 5th February Cross went to France to assess the best bet I have . Meanwhile Edenspring had to write off its 2.7 million investment in Oric. Its annual accounts revealed that the company (of which Barry Muncaster was M.D.) had made payments of 607,000 to companies owned by Barry Muncaster and John Tullis for "management services and reimbursement of expenses".

During February Tansoft released 'Land of Illusion' and a little piece of plastic to cover the Atmos expansion port, I.J.K. released 'DPTLQ', Orpheus released 'Megabase', and Gary Ramsay in April 1985 founded the Independent Oric User Group with Issue 1 of the group s bi-monthly newsletter.

On the 5th March Dennis Cross advertised Oric for sale in a slightly truncated advertisement in the Financial Times, reproduced overleaf.

In its April 1985 edition, the editor of Micr'Oric kept his readers up-to-date:

"More than 120,000 Orics in France... Oric Products International has had remarkable growth. At the present moment, as you will have read, the company is in the hands of a receiver. A solution for the future is being sought. It seems that a factory in France is envisaged, which bodes well for we Oric enthusiasts."
The same issue included an order form for the Stratos for 2995 francs, with delivery anticipated for June. The next issue was not to appear until the end of the year, and that would be the last.

By the end of April, 1985 Jean-Claude Talar of S.P.I.D., quoted in Personal Computer News, was confident:

"We want to make Oric a French company."
The likely cost, he said, was between a half and 1 million. At a creditors meeting on the 1st May it seems that no final decision was taken. André Fisher of Hitachi, spokesman for the fourteen major creditors of Oric, was helping the receiver to evaluate the offers - not surprisingly, he seems to have been less than enamoured with the idea of returning Oric to the 'triumvirate'.

May itself was quiet, but by June, 1985 Tansoft had had enough - they too went into liquidation and Opel, who had long been Oric distributors to Europe outside France, bought all the Tansoft stocks and U.K. software rights, and reportedly took over ITL s Z80 board, subsequently producing it for export to Eastern Europe.

The June Micr'Oric in France had a notable change in its advertisements - gone was the Oric Microdisc, in its place was the French Jasmin drive. The gulf between A.S.N. and Oric was now apparent in the editorial:

"Oric no longer exists in England. The factory is closed, and Oric France has no further connection. It seems that plans to resume production of the Oric have been dropped, and existing stocks are being sold off. Oric France retains a small stock of parts to service its clients. Those who buy elsewhere will not be served. A.S.N. will now distribute Goldstar MSX products...."
That same issue contained a major project to construct a 16 out of 4,096 colour card for the Atmos.

Finally, in July, 1985 the news broke - on the 1st June S.P.I.D. had bought Oric for 'several hundred thousand pounds'. Production of the Atmos was to be moved to its computer peripheral plant in Normandy by the end of the month, and by September Eureka will decide whether to go ahead with the Stratos.

P.C.W. added some detail. The Cambridge office was to be disposed of (it had been leased). According to Cameron McSween, a consultant who handled negotiations between Eureka and the receiver, a substantial part of the technology relating to the proposed IBM compatible machines was available to Eureka, but work on them was unlikely to continue. And discussions had been held with Barry Muncaster, of Oric Products Export with regard to making the French-built machines available in the U.K.

Interviewed in the July/August edition of Micro-Systemes, Jean-Claude Talar was coy about the price of the deal:

"We prefer not to reveal that... The Atmos will be available for 990 francs, and we have taken an interest in ATV Electronique of Vire in Normandy to enable us to manufacture the Oric in France... As for A.S.N., we will not be triumphalist. Our door is open to all of good will. But it must be said that A.S.N. are poor losers. I will give you a copy of a telex that you may publish and which clearly explains the position of A.S.N. vis-a-vis Oric."
The telex does speak volumes about A.S.N.'s contribution to the downfall of Oric:

FOR THE ATTENTION OF: MR. TALAR - S.P.I.D.
RE: ORIC INTERNATIONAL PRODUCTS LIMITED (IN RECEIVERSHIP)

THIS IS TO CONFIRM YOUR PURCHASE OF THE SOLE RIGHTS TO ORIC AND ITS PRODUCTS.

THE AGREEMENT BETWEEN ASN AND ORIC HAS BEEN TERMINATED FOLLOWING THEIR REFUSAL TO SETTLE THEIR DEBT.

ASN HAVE NO FURTHER CONNECTION WITH ORIC AND I WILL BE TAKING ACTION AGAINST THEM TO RECOVER THE OUTSTANDING DEBT.

REGARDS
DENNIS CROSS
RECEIVER AND MANAGER

According to Théoric in July, their debt to Oric was several million pounds . As Sylvio Faurez put it in his editorial,

"A page has been turned; thankyou to A.S.N. for having introduced us to the Oric. Here, we will try only to remember the good things!"
An event worthy of note that July was that Cumana, brave souls, launched their Oric disc drive for 235.


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