Sponsored by County Durham Development Company
WINNER: PHIL CRONIN Chief executive, Tombola Ltd
PHIL Cronin masterminded the development of what is the biggest online bingo business in the UK and one of the biggest in Europe.
Despite stiff competition, Tombola attracts thousands of players daily and pays £4m each week in prizes. Cronin, its chief executive, is currently considering expanding into Italy.
He says: “With luck, good ideas and good people we have a good chance of succeeding in new markets.”
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 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 £50,000 in 2005 to an estimated £26m this year and it employs 150 people.
Last year the firm was named Online Bingo Operator of the Year, and this year Cronin was named North East Entrepreneur of the Year. Cronin, 47 and married with three sons, avidly supports Sunderland Football Club, of which Tombola is a sponsor. He says: “I feel blessed to run my business.”