Since it’s inception in 1886, Ladbrokes has continuously evolved itself to maintain its position at the forefront of the gambling industry. The company itself was originally a commission agent for the horse trainers at Ladbroke Hall, one of the UK’s most prestigious stables, operating without an official name for the first 16 years of its existence.
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It wasn’t until 1902, when Mr Arthur Bendir joined the group that they formally began using the name Ladbrokes. With gambling still frowned upon by the UK government, Ladbrokes maintained an extremely exclusive and tight-knit group of clients, the large majority of which were extremely rich and considered to be part of “upper society”. This remained the case until betting shops became legal in 1961, just five years after the company was sold to Mr Mark Stein and his Nephew, Cyril, for around £100,000 — around £770,000 in “todays money”.
Over the next four years the company went on to expand at an incredible rate, using profits from other key areas of the business to establish a strong presence on the British high street. The company became the first to offer “fixed odds” on football results, a trend which has become common place within the industry to this day. However, just as occasionally happens today, Ladbrokes were not always on the right end of this. On the final day of the 1963 season Ladbrokes lost an estimated £1m in one afternoon on a series of results that went against them. While this scared the company’s few independent investors and even Mark Stein himself at first, they soon realised that they could spin it in their own favour by telling the public just how much they had paid out. This marketing strategy is still used today and is particularly prominent at major horse racing events such as Cheltenham, Royal Ascot and, of course, the Grand National. Ladbrokes were beginning to truly set themselves apart from their competitors, not just in terms of the size of their business but in the way they conducted themselves and ran that business.
It wasn’t long before the aging Mark Stein decided that it was time for him to step down and take a backseat in the day to day running of the company, handing over the chairmanship of Ladbrokes to Cyril Stein in 1965. Just 12 months later Cyril decided to float the company on the London Stock Exchange, with their IPO (Initial Public Offering) valuing the company at a staggering £1m; 10x the value that they purchased the company for 11 years earlier.
Ladbrokes continued to grow at an incredible rate over the next 20 years, acquiring Vernons Football Pools along the way in 1989 and a variety of other business’, which would all be sold later on at great profit. When Mr Cyril Stein stepped down as Chairman in 1993 to enjoy his retirement, Ladbrokes was valued at almost £2bn.
Over the course of the next 20 years the company would expand into the online market place and begin offering its patrons a wider variety of gambling options such as poker, casino games, bingo and much more. However, its sportsbook business remains the most prominent of all the company’s divisions. At the time of writing Ladbrokes also have more than 2,300 physical “land based” retail outlets across the United Kingdom.