Marconi Corporation yesterday agreed to sell most of its business along with its iconic name to Sweden's Ericsson, as a one-time star of industrial Britain looked set for a life of near obscurity.
Named after Guglielmo Marconi, the Italian radio pioneer, the end game for the once high-flying UK telecoms equipment maker was set in motion in April, when it failed to win even a small slice of a mammoth network upgrade contract by top customer BT Group.
That led the market to conclude that Marconi would find it even tougher to win business from other telecoms carriers, and its revenues from BT, the former British monopoly, were in any case set to decline in the years ahead.
Investors dumped the stock and Marconi lost over half its market value in just two trading sessions in April, and was once again forced to take the knife to costs after shedding thousands of jobs only a few years before.
In that previous crisis of 2001, it almost collapsed and had to be rescued by banks and bondholders swapping their debt for equity and taking control.
These have been painful times for the one-time conglomerate, which in its glory days straddled diverse sectors and was worth £35 billion.
Yesterday, it agreed to sell nearly three-quarters of its business to Ericsson for £1.2 billion, leaving a rump which will be renamed Telent.
It took more than a century to build the General Electric Company (GEC), the group which became Marconi after spinning off other operations.
Back in 1886, German immigrants Hugo Hirst and Gustav Byng founded the original electrical equipment business, making light bulbs and electric motors and moving in a parallel path to another industrial great name, Germany's Siemens. GEC went public in 1900. A pioneer in factory electrification, the company expanded into Europe, Japan, Australia, India and South Africa.
Its heyday came more than half a century later under the guidance of Arnold Weinstock, one of Britain's most respected industrialists who built up the company over three decades, outlasting nine governments and surviving six recessions.
Under Weinstock, GEC became one of Britain's biggest industrial conglomerates, with interests in defence, telecoms and medicine. Hotpoint washing machines and Yarrow shipbuilders were among its assets.
At its height, GEC made profits of almost £1 billion and had more than £1 billion in cash.
In 1968, it bought Marconi SpAmade, the civilian radio and military communications company set up by Guglielmo Marconi.
Under pressure from investors who wanted a more audacious strategy, Weinstock stepped down as chief executive in 1996 and was replaced by George Simpson, a Scottish accountant and veteran car industry manager.
Mr Simpson, who set about reinventing the firm and spending its cash pile, hitched GEC's star to the fashionable communications sector and the internet with a string of costly acquisitions, while selling off its industrial and defence businesses.
The change of name to Marconi emphasised the new focus.
But the new millennium began with the bursting of the Internet bubble and the collapse of the technology and telecommunications markets.
Saddled with billions of pounds of debts and facing plummeting sales, Marconi issued a surprise profit warning in 2001, heralding a decline from which it failed to recover.