1886 to 1956: A gentlemen’s bookmaker
In 1886, Harry Schwind and a Mr Pennington went into partnership as commission agents, backing the horses that Schwind trained at Ladbroke Hall in Worcestershire. In 1902, they were joined by Arthur Bendir and together, the three founded Ladbrokes.
From early on, Ladbrokes focused on providing betting services to the aristocracy, with members from many of London’s most exclusive gentlemen’s clubs. Its client base grew rapidly and the Ladbrokes offices moved first from the Strand to Hanover Square and then, in 1913, to a four-storey Queen Anne house in Mayfair.
The recruitment of Helen Vernet, descendant of an aristocratic Scottish family, was instrumental in Ladbrokes’ early success in attracting upper-crust female race-goers. Vernet joined Ladbrokes in 1919, making her the earliest female bookmaker. She continued working for the company almost until she died, at the age of 80.
1956 onwards: The Ladbrokes empire
In the course of its first 50 or so years, Ladbrokes succeeded in becoming the gentleman’s bookmaker. Even the Queen, when she was still Princess Elizabeth, had an account with Ladbrokes.
However, it was from 1956 onwards that Ladbrokes’ transformation into one of the world’s largest bookmakers really began. In this year, the company was acquired by Cyril Stein and his bookmaker uncle, Max Parker.
Stein set about opening the business to a much wider audience, introducing “no limit” and antepost betting, and extending the firm’s hours to allow for greyhound betting. Ladbrokes also sponsored its first horse race at Newmarket.
In 1961, the ban on betting shops in the UK – introduced in 1853 – finally came to an end, and in 1962, Stein opened the first Ladbrokes betting shop. By 1967, when the company was floated on the London Stock Exchange, Ladbrokes had more than 100 betting shops and five credit offices.
By the early 1970s, Ladbrokes was one of the three largest bookmakers in the UK, along with William Hill and Coral. Things didn’t slow down either – the company continued making acquisitions, diversifying and growing at a phenomenal rate.
Continuing success in recent times
In 1997, Ladbrokes temporarily acquired Coral. However, a ruling by Monopolies and Mergers Commission forced it to sell most of the Coral assets.
By 2003, Ladbrokes had almost 2000 betting shops across the United Kingdom and had expanded into casinos, hotels, and even a DIY chain.
Today Ladbrokes total revenues exceed £1 billion a year and more than a million customers gamble online at Ladbrokes.com, which is the leading site for sports betting worldwide.