Neely Sales

Division name: Neely Sales

Founded: 1962
Address: 3939 Lankershim Blvd, North Hollywood, California
Neely North Hollywood Office Entrance


Neely Enterprises was established in April of 1933, six years before HP was founded. Despite the very small market (and the depression) at the time, Norm Neely believed it was a good time to start a manufacturer's representative business for radio and sound equipment. Manufacturer's representatives are sales companies that sell vendor's products into regions where the vendor has no direct sales force. The legal transaction of the sale is between the vendor and the end customer, with the representative being paid a commission. Manufacturer's representatives generally representated multiple vendors (usually non-competing) in related fields. In the early days, Neely was a one-man company and covered four states from his office in Southern California (Califormia, Arizona, Nevada and Utah). His customers were recording studios, broadcast radio stations and organisations with general communications requirements (police departments, fire departments, etc).

Before 1962, HP did not have a direct sales force in the US and sold its products through manufacturer's representative companies. Neely Enterprises was the first of these companies. Neely met with Hewlett and Packard in the Autumn of 1939 and Neely was appointed as HP's first manufacturer's representative. The agreement was verbal and remained the only contract between the two companies until HP acquired Neely in 1962. During the 1940s Neely expanded into electronic instruments. Business expanded rapidly during the war due primarily to the aircraft industry in Southern California. By the end of the decade, electronic instruments represented the largest part of the business with sound equipment becoming less important. Also during this time, New Mexico replaced Utah in the company's sales territory. Neely exited the sound business in the early 1950s. By the end of the 1950s, HP sold through fourteen manufacturer's representative companies, the largest of which was Neely Enterprises. The others were: Atlas, Bivins and Caldwell, Harrison-Hanson, Horman Associates, Hytronic Measurement Co, Earl Lipscombe, Ron Merritt, RMC Associates, IE Robinson Co, JD Ryerson Associates, S Sterling Co and Yewell Associates. Neely Enterprises sold $2.3M worth of HP equipment in 1952.

Neely Enterprises' head office in North Hollywood was located adjacent to the historic Campo de Cahuenga Park. In 1847, Californios general Andres Pico signed a peace treaty with American Colonel John Fremont ceding control of California to the United States (California became a state three years later). All Neely offices shared the same Spanish/California architecture. Neely Enterprises was a very innovative sales organisation.

One of its most interesting innovations was the use of a mobile demonstration bus for vendors' products. The first Neely Starliner bus was launched in the early 1950s. The buses toured the entire Neely region to bring product demonstrations directly to customers. Larry Blomberg from Adelaide Australia owns a 1957 Flxible Starliner that he's restoring and converting into a motor home and told us the Neely Starliner was delivered on September 6th, 1957 at Neely's North Hollywood office on Lankershim Blvd. The Neely Starliner was subsequently sold and converted into a motor home. Neely's Starliner was serial number 30977 and model number 218WA1-57-SPECIAL to accommodate the interior fitout Neely wanted instead of the normal seating. Larry provided the picture of the Neely Starliner on the 'More Images' link.

HP became the principal owner of Neely Enterprises on November 1, 1962. Neely remained as president of the new business, which subsequently became an HP division. In 1962, Neely produced $34M in revenue for its vendors; $23.6M of that amount was for HP and its affiliated companies. Neely had twelve principle vendors at the time, seven of which were a part of HP. Those included Boonton Radio, Dymec, Harrison Laboratories, HP, FL Moseley Company, Palo Alto Engineering Company and Sanborn Company. The five non-HP vendors represented by Neely were Baldwin-Lima-Hamilton, Dage Division, Emcor, McLean Engineering and Varian Associates. When Neely was acquired, the company had four offices in California: North Hollywood, San Carlos, Sacramento and San Diego. Neely also had two offices in Arizona (Scottsdale and Tucson) and two offices in New Mexico (Albuquerque and Las Cruces). 170 Neely employees worked for Neely at the time of the acquisition.

The Neely Division sold $28.5M worth of HP products in 1964. In January of 1965, Neely opened an office in Seattle Washington (Bellevue). The next month, the Neely region was expanded to include Alaska, Hawaii, Washington, Oregon, Western Montanna and Idaho. Also in February, the Lahana Sales Division was merged with the Neely Sales Division. Lahana was another manufacturer's representative company that had been purchased by HP. The Lahana merger expanded Neely's territory to include Utah, Colorado, Wyoming and eastern Montanna. The geographic expansion increased Neely's staff level to 227 employees. The division finished the year having booked $35.5M in revenue. HP would eventually have four sales regions in the US - eastern, southern, midwest and Neely.

In 1966, Neely booked $44M in revenue, accounting for over twenty percent of HP's worldwide business. By the end of the decade, Neely employeed 420 people.

Norm Neely finally retired on August 31, 1976 after over 50 years in the industry, 43 of which were spent running his company. The Neely organisation produced a number of individuals who went on to assume key positions within HP. These included Bob Boniface, long-time general manager at Neely. In 1974, Boniface was promoted to executive vice president for administration. Along with John Young and Ralph Lee, Boniface was one of the top three executives in the company below Hewlett and Packard. Al Oliverio left Neely in 1969 to become HP's vice president of marketing. John Brown left Neely to become the marketing manager for the San Diego Division, and subsequently became the division's general manager. Brown went on to become vice president and director of YHP. Jim Arthur came out of Neely to become the first general manager of the Data Terminals Division.

The Neely North Hollywood site is now a parking lot (2013). The building was demolished in the 1990s (we think).

The Neely Sales Division is the only non-product HP division listed by the museum. We have included Neely for two reasons. First, the company was the largest and most important of the sales divisions within HP. Also, we were able to obtain most editions of the first twenty years of Neely's internal newsletter La Prensa from Bob Reade (editor of the newsletter). The information gives a wonderful look into the early operations of HP's sales organisation. The Neely Sales Region of HP has carried the name of the originally acquired company longer than any other HP entity.

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