Author: Anton Johan
Who could have foreseen that when J. Arthur Rank, a wealthy British
industrialist, founded film company Rank Organisation in 1937, that 75 years
later it would have evolved into Rank Group plc, a company poised to
become the biggest single operator of land casinos in the UK?
The story of
Rank Organisation is a lengthy but interesting one, which perfectly demonstrates
how with the proper vision and guidance, and willingness to adapt with the
times, a company that became successful in one field can go on to dominate in a
completely different one.
History of Rank Organisation
Under the guidance of J. Arthur Rank, at its peak in the late 1940s Rank
Organisation owned five film studios - Islington Studios, Lime Grove Studios,
Denham Film Studios, Ealing Studios and the legendary Pinewood Film Studios, 650
cinemas across the UK, as well as various subsidiaries in The Netherlands and
It also owned General Film Distributors, DeLuxe Laboratories, Rank Screen
Advertising and the rights to distribute films by US film studio, Universal
Pictures. In 1952 J. Arthur Rank stepped down as MD to become chairman of Rank.
His replacement, Sir John Davis, consolidated the firm's film production to
Davis was also the driving force behind a clever partnership with Haloid
Corporation to form Rank Xerox, a leading producer of photocopying equipment to
this day. He also secured a large shareholding in a television consortium called
Southern Television. Under his guidance, Rank Organisation also started record
labels called Top Rank and Jaro Records, and even went on to produce stereos and
television sets for a time, while acquiring many other businesses along the way.
Rank Acquired Mecca Leisure in 1990
But it was the decision to install bingo game facilities in many of it cinemas
in 1961 under the name Top Rank clubs that started the company's long-standing
relationship with gambling in the UK. And in 1990, Rank Organisation acquired
the UK's largest bingo operator Mecca Leisure plc, merging it with Top Rank
clubs to form the nation's biggest bingo company.
Four years earlier in 1986,
Rank Organisation became involved in the UK land casino business by acquiring a
casino in Great Yarmouth, and after a series of additional acquisitions and new
casino developments, was soon well on its way to becoming a major force in the
UK gambling market.
That decade, and the next, saw the company also diversify into many other
leisure-orientated fields including hotels, theme parks, restaurants, holiday
camps, restaurants, timeshare developments, pubs, nightclubs. It even owned Hard
Rock Café. And in 1994 Rank Organisation formed Top Rank España, which became
the fourth biggest bingo club operator in Spain with 11 clubs nationwide.
Formation of The Rank Group
In 1995 Rank Organisation became Rank Group, a company increasingly focused on
becoming solely a gaming and leisure operator. And in this vein, by the new
millennium Rank Group was focused on disposing of its non-core businesses, while
at the same time acquiring new businesses to enhance its gaming and leisure
For instance, in 2003 Rank bought leading UK telephone and online
bookmaker Blue Square in its quest to gain a larger foothold in the highly
lucrative online gambling and betting market. Through Blue Square, Rank launched
meccabingo.com, which today is one of the most popular online bingo sites in the
Renamed Rank Interactive in 2008, its internet gaming offerings include
meccabingo.com, Bluesq.com and GCasino.com. But while Rank Group has its eye on
becoming a major player in the UK online gambling arena, it has also been
waiting for the right time to dominate the country's land casino industry, and
that time is now.
Rank the Biggest UK Land Casino Operator
Last week Rank Group - which was acquired in July 2011 by All Global Investments
Limited (AGIL), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hong Kong-based Guoco Group Limited
- confirmed that it has agreed to acquire Gala Casinos' 23 casinos from Gala
Coral Group Ltd for a £205 million cash consideration.
This will make Rank
Group the largest land casino operator in the UK with a total of 58 operating
land casinos, and licences to operate a further 13. Not bad for a company that
started out making films in the 1930s.
Posted by Anton Johan at 12:43 on 16 May 2012