Some thought that a £645 million hotel bill was overdoing it; then they saw that Cyril Stein had played a masterstroke. Chris Blackhurst reports.
It is enough to make the greatest of tycoons green with envy. In October 1987 Ladbroke paid £645 million for the Hilton hotels outside the United States. Today, less than four years later, they are worth £2.5 billion. Admittedly, Ladbroke now runs 150 hotels under the Hilton banner, as opposed to the 93 acquired in 1987. Nevertheless, it almost defies belief: a profit of £2 billion in less than four years. Think about it. Even the man who pulled off this remarkable coup has to pinch himself occasionally to make sure that he is not dreaming. Normally the most reticent of individuals - especially when talking to the press - Cyril Stein, Ladbroke's chairman, cannot conceal his delight. "It's not just the best deal I've made," he laughs, "it's the best deal anyone has ever made."