History

Since its beginnings as a company operating in Britain’s motion picture industry, Rank has stood for innovation and integrity in the field of popular leisure and entertainment.

For more than seven decades, Rank has brought enjoyment to customers around the globe, initially through the production, distribution and screening of motion pictures; and more latterly through the operation of casinos, bingo clubs, restaurants, pubs, theme parks and hotels.

Today, as one of Europe’s foremost gaming-based leisure businesses, The Rank Group Plc stays true to the pioneering spirit of its founder, J. Arthur Rank. The Company’s iconic ‘gong’ motif continues to represent Rank’s desire to excite and to entertain.

Beginnings – motion pictures

In 1937, Joseph Arthur Rank formed The Rank Organisation, bringing together a number of motion picture businesses acquired in previous years, including Pinewood Studios and Denham Films. Over the next four years, he added to this the Odeon chain of cinemas, the Gaumont-British Picture Corporation and the noted film studios at Elstree and Lime Grove.

During the 1940s and 1950s, The Rank Organisation produced some of the best-loved films in British motion picture history, including Powell and Pressburger’s ‘The Red Shoes’, David Lean’s ‘Brief Encounter’ and Laurence Olivier’s ‘Henry V’ and ‘Hamlet’.

Over succeeding decades, Rank maintained a prominent position in Britain’s film industry. The Company finally ended its long association with movies in 2006 when it sold its Deluxe Film post-production and distribution business (having sold Odeon Cinemas and Pinewood Studios in 2000).

Manufacturing – sight and sound

In 1956, Rank entered into a joint venture with the Haloid Corporation of the USA to manufacture and market photocopying equipment under the name Rank Haloid. The company, which subsequently became known as Rank Xerox, enjoyed enormous success.

Over the course of the next four decades, Rank gradually sold down its interest in Rank Xerox to fund investment into other sectors, finally ending its participation in the company in 1997.

Rank also owned a record company, Top Rank Records (sold in 1960 to EMI) and manufactured radios and televisions through Rank Bush Murphy Group (sold in 1978 to Great Universal Stores).

Rank at leisure – diversification and focus 

During the 1980s and 1990s via a series of acquisitions, Rank significantly increased its presence in the leisure retail sector, both in Britain and across the globe.

By the mid-1990s, Rank was one of the world’s leading leisure conglomerates with operations and investments in cinemas, theme parks, pubs, restaurants, nightclubs, hotels, holiday camps, timeshare developments and camping grounds as well as bingo clubs and casinos. The Company owned a portfolio of famous leisure brands including Butlins holiday camps, Odeon cinemas and Hard Rock Café; and was associated with Universal Studios via its theme park joint ventures in Florida, USA and Osaka, Japan.

By the turn of the century, the Company had entered a new phase of divestment as it sought greater strategic focus. In less than a decade, successive Rank chief executives, Mike Smith and Ian Burke dismantled the Group’s conglomerate structure via a series of disposals.

The sale of Hard Rock to the Seminole Tribe of Florida in April 2007 marked the end of Rank’s existence as a conglomerate and the start of a new era as a focused gaming-based leisure operator.

The best game in town – building today’s business

While Rank’s emergence as a focused gaming business did not finally occur until 2007, the Company has enjoyed almost half a century operating in the gaming and betting sector.

In 1961, Rank made its first entry into the gaming market through the introduction of games of bingo into some of its Odeon and Gaumont cinemas. With cinema attendances dwindling and the recent passing of the 1960 Gaming Act, the Company gradually adapted more of its cinemas for bingo under the Top Rank Social Clubs brand.

The acquisition of Mecca Leisure Group plc in 1990 enabled Rank to augment its position as Britain’s leading operator of bingo clubs, merging its Top Rank clubs with Mecca. Although the Company’s portfolio of bingo clubs has grown smaller (as the wider bingo clubs industry has declined), Rank remains to this day one of the country’s largest bingo operators – both in clubs and online.

In 1994, following a change of legislation in Spain (which allowed for the first time overseas companies to own bingo clubs), Rank established Enracha. Over the course of the next decade, Enracha built a portfolio of 11 clubs via organic development and acquisition, becoming the fourth largest operator of bingo clubs in Spain.

Rank entered Britain’s casinos market in 1989 via the acquisition of a single casino in Great Yarmouth. The acquisition of Mecca Leisure Group plc 18 months later transformed Rank into a serious player in the sector, a position augmented by the development of new casinos and a further number of acquisitions. Today, Rank is the most profitable operator of casinos in Britain with the second largest portfolio of clubs and licences.

In 1998, Rank bought two casinos in Belgium, in the coastal resorts of Middelkerke and Blankenberge.

In 2003, Rank acquired Blue Square, the telephone and internet bookmaking company in an effort to accelerate its development in the online gaming and betting sector.

Blue Square became the vehicle for the online distribution of Rank’s gaming brands, including meccabingo.com, grosvenorcasinos.com and enracha.es. Having established online and mobile distribution of Rank’s core brands, Blue Square was sold to Betfair in 2013.

Rank’s strategic focus on the gaming sector was driven in part by the opportunities suggested by revised gaming legislation, both in Britain and in a number of overseas markets. Despite negative changes to legislation and regulation since 2007, Rank has maintained its belief in the long-term attractiveness of gaming as a form of popular entertainment.

Back to top
Bingo balls