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Joseph Kagan, Baron Kagan


Joseph Kagan, Baron Kagan

Joseph Kagan, Baron Kagan (6 June 1915 – 17 January 1995) was a Lithuanian-British industrialist and the founder of Kagan Textiles, of Elland, which made raincoats from the waterproof Gannex fabric he had invented. Gannex raincoats were worn by Prime Minister Harold Wilson, a friend of his. Kagan was sent to prison for ten months in 1980 for stealing from his own companies.


  • Early life 1
  • Rise to wealth and prominence 2
  • Fall from grace 3
  • Sources 4

Early life

He was born Juozapas Kaganas into a Bucharest and from there, to England. From 1946 he settled in Huddersfield and began work as a blanket weaver. He founded his firm at a small factory opposite Elland Town Hall. His father Benjamin had emigrated before the war: he was the second oldest man in Britain when he died at the age of 109.

Rise to wealth and prominence

In 1951 Kagan invented Gannex and his firm began to grow in size, moving to a larger mill in Dewsbury Road. After the then opposition trade spokesman, Harold Wilson, wore a Gannex coat on a world tour in 1956, the raincoats became fashion icons, and were worn by world leaders such as Barkisland as accommodation for visitors to his company.

Huddersfield was the home town of Harold Wilson, later Leader of the Opposition in 1963, and Kagan became close to Wilson and provided funding for his private office. Upon Wilson's first resignation honours list in 1970, Kagan was given a knighthood.[1]

Fall from grace

When Wilson resigned as Prime Minister in March 1976, Kagan was made a life peer as Baron Kagan, of Elland in the County of West Yorkshire[2] in the 1976 Prime Minister's Resignation Honours (known satirically as the 'Lavender List'), taking the Labour Party whip.

He was later charged with tax evasion, though the formal charges were styled as "theft" and "false accounting", to comply with extradition treaties which did not cover tax offenses. After a stay in Israel, he was arrested in Paris. On December 12, 1980, he was convicted of four counts of theft. He was fined £375,000 and served a ten-month sentence, first in Armley, then in Rudgate open prison, Yorkshire. He lost his knighthood,[3] but his peerage could not be forfeited. Upon release from custody, he returned to the House of Lords and spoke on prison reform. In 1994 his health deteriorated, and he died peacefully in his London apartment the following year.

Talk of a GANNEX re launch.

In 2010 the GANNEX mill in Elland was demolished, then in 2014 Business Man and Entrepreneur Mr C Beeby of Huddersfield took it upon himself to re license the GANNEX brand could this be the return of not only a world renowned brand but a British brand once said to be in the same league as Burberry.


  1. ^ The London Gazette: no. 45239. p. 13037. 27 November 1970.
  2. ^ The London Gazette: no. 46951. p. 9167. 2 July 1976.
  3. ^ The London Gazette: no. 48599. p. 6229. 1 May 1981.
  • John A. Hargreaves. "Kagan, Joseph, Baron Kagan (1915–1995)".   (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
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