Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Entrepreneur Is Top of the Shop; AWARDS

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Entrepreneur Is Top of the Shop; AWARDS

Article excerpt

Byline: Iain Laing

ONE of the qualities which marks out a true entrepreneur is to be able to keep coming up with new ideas to adapt to changing markets.

And Phil Cronin saw the potential of the growing public taste for online bingo after taking control of the Sunderland publishing firm which had been in his family for five generations.

His ability to transform his firm saw him win the Durham & Wearside Business Executive of the Year 2011 in the awards, organised by The Journal and Evening Gazette in Middlesbrough. Edward Thompson had grown over 150 years to be a successful business producing printed products ranging from stationery to ballot papers. It had started to move into printing bingo cards but its initial attempts at online business had been hit by the dot.com crash of the 1980s.

But Cronin was sure there was a place for his business in the future growth of internet and his determination paid off with his work to build the biggest online bingo business in the UK and one of the biggest in Europe. It now attracts thousands of players a day and pays out around pounds 4m a week in prize money.

On graduating in computing and electronics from Durham University in 1986, he joined his father's business, Edward Thompson. This is the UK's largest supplier of bingo tickets to the terrestrial games. He became managing director at the age of 28 when his father became chairman.

In 1995 he left to set up Intermedia Games, creating and selling promotional game cards produced by Edward Thompson and in 2000 he created Tombola as an internet business featuring not only as tombola.com but on other sites too.

After the dot com bubble burst the business almost folded. Cronin studied at Harvard Business School then returned to Edward Thompson in 2002 as chief executive.

In 2006, Tombola found profit launching its first bingo site partnering a national newspaper. Cronin, to concentrate on the newspaper venture, again ceased being an executive with Edward Thompson. In 2008 Tombola split from the newspaper and now claims the biggest bingo site in the UK with twice as many players as its nearest rival. The company has grown from revenue of under pounds 50,000 in 2005 to an estimated pounds 26m last year and it employs 150 people.

And Cronin's success has been recognised not only by winning the Durham & Wearside Business Executive of the Year but by other awards including Online Bingo Operators of the Year in a nationwide awards.

Along with Peter Sandford-Crouch of Newcastle-based Potts Print and Bill Scott of Middlesbrough-based Wilton Group he was one of the sub-regional winners named as finalists in the regional North East Business Executive of the Year Award, eventually won by Scott.

As businesses continue to battle the biggest economic challenges they have faced for generations, the judges will be looking for more inspiring individuals who have led their businesses to success against the odds and will prove to be models for others. …

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