History of Ladbroke Group PLC

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Ladbroke Group operates within the global hospitality and gaming industries under the leading brand names that include Hilton as well as Ladbroke. The company plans to increase shareholder value by enhancing cash flow, earnings per share, and dividends by exploiting its strengths on the international market, both of which are expected to experience significant growth over the next few years.

The history of Ladbroke Group PLC

The time Ladbroke Group PLC was founded around 100 years ago, it was an individual agency to manage the horse racing bets made by the English high society It has evolved from a simple partnership between a trainer for horses and a friend , to become one of the leading companies in the hotel and leisure industries. Named for the village in the county of Warwickshire, England, where it was founded, Ladbroke now consists of Hilton International, the company’s largest division, and is an operator of more than 160 Hilton hotels across nearly fifty nations (not including the United States), and numerous gaming and betting operations that include Ladbroke Racing–the world’s largest commercial off-track betting organisationand race tracks, casinos, and other gambling businesses across countries like the United Kingdom, Ireland, Belgium, Gibralter, the United States, Argentina, Puerto Rico, and Peru. In 1996 Ladbroke joined a global partnership in partnership with Hilton Hotels Corporation (the the owner of the Hilton brand in the United States), a move that brought together the Hilton brand throughout the world after 32 years of being separated.

Purchased by the Cyril Stein-Led Group of Investors in the year 1957.

Since its betting operations were considered illegal under British law but permitted on an unofficial basis Ladbroke was able to keep a minimal profile for nearly 70 years. After its move to area of London’s West End around the turn century, it soon established itself as the top quality credit betting industry. In the year 1957 Ladbroke was bought by a group of investors led by Cyril Stein, who served as chairman until 1993. Spurred by the legalization of off-track betting in 1963 The size of the racing division grew significantly to be able to extend its reach beyond the upper classes to all who wanted to try their luck in picking a winner. In 1967, the company went public, putting its shares for sale on the London Stock Exchange, and by 1971 , the firm owned and managed a total of 660 betting stores within the United Kingdom.

Although the betting business assured Ladbroke of a relatively steady revenue stream Stein realized that Ladbroke also needed to build strong assets as a base for future expansion. Applying the expertise they had gained from their experience in the racing industry, Stein and his management team formulated an approach to diversification which took the company beyond horse betting and into hotel and property development sectors.

Diversified Beyond Horse Betting in the 1970s

Through its 1972 acquisition from the London & Leeds Development Corporation, Ladbroke aggressively entered the real estate industry with offices across the Eastern United States as well as in Paris, Amsterdam, and Brussels. Development of property throughout the United Kingdom led to the formation of four other subsidiary companies: Ladbroke Group Properties, which manages residential and commercial developments within London and surrounding London; Ladbroke City & County Land Company in order which oversees out-of town and local retail projects; Gable House Properties, the largest owner of nursing and retirement homes in the country, acquired in 1986 to develop residential, commercial retail, and commercial properties; as well as Ladbroke Retail Parks, for the development of retailing centers outside of London.

Ladbroke began its lodging operations in 1973 when it launched three hotels with moderate prices which quickly grew into an extremely profitable chain across the nation. Its success with this business and the steady growth of Ladbroke’s betting and real estate business enabled the company to overcome the adversity it faced in the short time it was in the business of casinos. Casinos, which Ladbroke had hoped might be an enticing addition to its hotel business were abandoned in 1979 after the company was denied its license in a well-publicized case in which it was found guilty of breaking government gambling regulations.

The company expanded internationally in the 1980s.

Five years after, Ladbroke capitalized on an opportunity to expand its racing operations into Belgium. After the acquisition in 1984 of Le Tierce S.A., an organization that operates Belgian betting establishments, Ladbroke rapidly established itself as a prominent player in the race industry in Belgium. Even though a plan to buy Turf Paradise, an Arizona-based racetrack Turf Paradise racetrack fell through in the same year because of issues with obtaining state regulatory approval, Ladbroke successfully acquired the Detroit Race Course in the beginning of 1985 and took the first step toward making its mark on U.S. horseracing.

The expansion of the European racing market was announced in April of 1986 when Ladbroke was granted exclusive rights to set up off-track betting shops throughout the Netherlands. That year also saw Ladbroke explore a fresh opportunity to grow its retailing sector by purchasing Home Charm Group PLC, the leading chain of more than 100 self-service stores that operate across the United Kingdom under the Texas Homecare name.

The company’s growth was driven by acquisitions and expansion in certain sectors, but was tempered by consolidation and divestitures in others. As part of a plan that was designed to end involvement in areas where Ladbroke did not have its own position it sold a number of businesses grouped under its Entertainment division during the year 1986, including Lasky’s, an electronic retailer chain, as well as amusement arcades , bingo halls as well as local newspaper publishing operations but retaining more profitable ventures in magazine production and cable TV.

That accomplished, the company began to focus on creating the most modern and stable image. Ladbroke introduced a number of initiatives to enhance the perception of betting establishments that are off-track like adding snack bars and live television. Ladbroke along with three other major bookmakers in 1986 to form Satellite Information Services (SIS) A company that broadcasts television that was created to send racing on greyhounds and horses directly to Britain’s off-track betting stores.

The involvement of bookmakers in SIS caused an investigation in the department’s Office of Fair Trading (OFT) into possible conflicts of interest. OFT was particularly worried with the bookmakers’ role in this SIS system and their potential to create a monopoly, but also regarding their ability to shift spectators away from the racecourses to shops off-track and impact the odds for determining the payouts of winning bets. The second investigation was the result of similar concerns regarding the bookmakers’ power , as expressed from their National Greyhound Racing Club. Ladbrokes’s stake in SIS that was higher than that of autres investors made them a main target of the investigation.

In the meantime, Ladbroke brought a suit before the High Court in which it claimed that the Extel communications group of starting an array of false information about the company, which caused a panic on Ladbroke shares, reducing the company’s value to PS200 million in just two days. Ladbroke asserted that Extel, which operated a sports-related information and competition service, had sought to sabotage the first open-market offering SIS stock by simultaneously releasing numerous damaging reports, including reports of Cyril Stein had resigned and consequences of improper relations between prominent racers. The reports were never confirmed and the OFT investigations ultimately yielded no evidence of wrongdoing by Ladbroke on its part.

It was acquired by Hilton International in 1987

While Ladbroke was now the second-largest hotel operator within its own country in the late 1980s, it was not yet gained a worldwide recognition in the lodging industry. The acquisition of Parkmount Hospitality Corporation and the Dallas-based Rodeway Inn organization to Ramada, Inc. decreased the company’s reach and influence outside that of United Kingdom. That all changed in 1987 when Ladbroke succeeded in acquiring the 91-hotel Hilton International chain for more than $1 billion from Allegis Corporation. Ladbroke’s bid to purchase Hilton and beat several other heavyweight bidders and was the second time it had attempted in two years to purchase this hotel company. The first had fallen short as Hilton’s previous owner, Transworld Corporation, turned Ladbroke down in favor of an Allegis bid that was more valuable. This time, Stein used a three-week time limit to pressure Allegis into accepting the Ladbroke offer right away and not wait for other bidders to receive the approval of their own governments.

It was the Hilton International purchase made Ladbroke one of the largest hotel operators in the world, having a presence in 44 countries including that of the United States where Hilton’s six Vista International hotels joined the Ladbroke fold. (In 1964 Hilton International was separated by Hilton Hotels Corporation, which held the rights to the Hilton trademark in the United States.) The company was also granted 50% of Hilton’s sophisticated reservation system that Ladbroke considered to be an important connection to travellers around the globe. One year later, Ladbroke upgraded and renamed most of its original hotel properties throughout the United Kingdom, reintroducing them as part of the Hilton National chain.

Additionally, technological advancements like a fully-color electronic showboard and innovative Gold Star shops, with options that appeal to a broader audience have been introduced to help maintain Ladbroke’s status as a leading company in racing and off-track betting. Its presence as the only British betting business operating in the United States expanded, too: Ladbroke obtained licenses to operate off-track betting in Wyoming and Pennsylvania and Pennsylvania. It also acquired The Meadows racetrack in Pittsburgh in 1988, and then purchased the San the city of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Fields in 1989. Ladbroke also acquired a significant competitor that is based in the United Kingdom, Thomson T-Line and its Vernons football pools operation (which involved betting at British professional soccer matches) in the same year, doubling its share of betting across the United Kingdom.

In the late 1980s, hotels owned by Ladbroke were responsible for the majority of its business. After after the Hilton merger, Ladbroke had opened more than 13 new, four-star hotels all over the world and was in the process of development. Also, it operated various holiday villages as well as fitness and leisure clubs throughout the United Kingdom, and the Comfort Hotel chain throughout Europe. In the latter half of the 1980s, more than 50 new outlets have been integrated into the Texas Homecare operation, which was the second-largest DIY retailer within the United Kingdom with 200 stores. The racing division of Ladbroke has been thriving with over 1,800 retail betting shops throughout and across the United Kingdom.

A renewed focus on Hotels and Betting and Gaming in the 1990s

The 1990s’ early years were challenging years for Ladbroke since Hilton International suffered from the recession across the globe, most notably Europe and Japan the profits of Texas Homecare declined due to the fierce competition in the self-help sector, as well as the company’s already troubled U.K. gambling operations were hurt further with the introduction in November 1994 of a lottery that was based in the United Kingdom, which particularly affected the Vernons football pools business. The response of the company to these challenges was to constantly explore opportunities abroad to expand its gambling operation. In 1993 Ladbroke made public a plan to launch an off-track betting business in Argentina in the coming five years. In the month of January, 1995 Ladbroke entered the bingo hall market in Argentina by taking charge of the operation of one bingo hall located situated in Buenos Aires. The company was then able to build new bingo facilities at Posadas as well as Salta. Bingo halls were also established at Sao Paulo, Brazil, in the same time.

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The turning point in the company’s fortunes, however it was at the start of 1994 the year that John Jackson was named chairman and Peter George group chief executive, together taking over the management of Ladbroke from the departing Stein. For the past 37 years, Stein had run the company in a somewhat autocratic way and, despite its status as a publicly traded company, had created an aura of secrecy around the company. Jackson and George not only promised a new age of collaboration and transparency — backed by the announcement in March 1994 that they took part in the company’s first-ever press conference–but they also swiftly refocused on the business’s goals. They ordered a series of strategic reviews that were completed in 1994, and which resulted in a conclusion that Ladbroke should refocus on hotels as well as gaming and sell its commercial property and retailing divisions. Then, Ladbroke in January 1995 was able to sell Texas Homecare to J. Sainsbury plc for PS290 million. In the years 1995 through early 1997 Ladbroke gradually disposed of almost all the property assets in its division before closing the division in March 1997.

The result of the company’s new focus was its return to casino gambling nearly 14 years after its shameful departure from the industry in 1979. In September 1994 Ladbroke established a new gaming subsidiary known as Ladbroke Clubs Limited and purchased three London casinos –Maxims, Chesters and the Golden Horseshoe–from City Clubs Limited for PS50 million (US$75 million). Ladbroke was then able to make further steps to establish a broadly based international gaming company. In April 1996 the Barracuda Casino, another London casino, was bought from Stakis plc. In July 1997 Ladbroke made a formal statement of intent to acquire Colorado Gaming & Entertainment Co. that owned three casinos within the Colorado casinos of Black Hawk and Central City. The deal of US$85 million was the first time that Ladbroke ventured into gambling in the United States. The following year, Ladbroke was awarded a London casino license, which would increase the amount of London casinos to five. In the meantime Ladbroke was looking to bid to get three licenses for casinos in South Africa.

In late 1995 and the beginning of 1996, Ladbroke was the focus of takeover speculation since its stock continued suffer terribly. The depressed stock was largely due to the problems with Ladbrokes’ U.K. betting operations, that continued to suffer huge losses from the national lottery. It was also caused by the failure to Ladbroke in conjunction with Hilton Hotels Corporation to reunite the Hilton brand, something that Hilton Hotels did not want to do. Actually, Hilton Hotels, which like Ladbroke is also engaged with gaming, was one of the companies said to be interested in acquiring Ladbroke. All of this was resolved by the announcement made in August 1996 in which Hilton International and Hilton Hotels had entered into an alliance that would unify the Hilton brand over 32 years following the time it had been split apart. The agreement for the alliance came into effect in the month of January the two companies Hilton International and Hilton Hotels agreeing to cooperate on marketing and sales hospitality development programs and loyalty program, and other operational aspects. Ladbroke and Hilton Hotels also gained the chance to acquire up 20 percent each of the other’s shares and Hilton Hotels immediately announced that it would acquire a 5 percent stake in Ladbroke. In February the first major initiative of the alliance, called the Hilton Honors Worldwide loyalty program, was launched.

Also in February 1997, Ladbroke Racing acquired the A. R. Dennis chain of 114 betting shops in London and in southeastern England to the tune of PS31.3 million. The purchase boosted the number of Ladbroke Racing betting outlets in the United Kingdom to 1,925.

Having completed the refocusing of its business and the unification of the Hilton brands, Ladbroke was in a much better position to build its remaining gambling and hotel operations into a healthier condition. With both the gaming and hospitality industries expected to grow dramatically well into the 21st century the opportunities for growth were endless. Ladbroke’s casino sector displayed particular potential due to its growing international presence. Despite these encouraging indicators, the partnership to Hilton Hotels also led to speculation that Hilton Hotels would eventually acquire Ladbroke which would leave the future of the company as an independent company uncertain.