Steinberg, Leonard, Baron Steinberg (19362009), bookmaker, was born on 1 August 1936 in Belfast, the second son in the family of three sons and one daughter of Jack Steinberg (19081955), optician and optical manufacturer, and his wife, Esther (19121968), daughter of Jacob Lazarus, baker and grocer, of Belfast. His paternal grandparents were Jewish immigrants from Riga, who had fled persecution to settle in Belfast at the beginning of the century. Although he had intended to go to university and to become an accountant, Steinberg left the Royal Belfast Academical Institution after his father's death to take over the running of his businesses, which included an illegal betting shop run from the back of a milk bar. He opened more betting shops in Belfast, and in 1958 founded L. Stanley Ltd, called after the name his father had taken during the Second World War. On 15 July 1962, at the synagogue in Osborn Street, Hull, he married Beryl Cobden, a 21-year-old fashion shop assistant, daughter of Maurice Cobden, company director. They had one son and one daughter.
During the 1960s and early 1970s Steinberg expanded his chain of betting shops in Belfast, helped by the legalization of betting shops in 1960, but during the troubles in Northern Ireland and the targeting of businesses by the Provisional IRA many businessmen left for the mainland. After Steinberg was shot in the leg by an IRA gunman on the doorstep of his house in the Antrim Road, in 1977, he decided to leave Belfast for Manchester. In 1978 he bought 100 Mercury betting shops in the Liverpool area from Ladbrokes, closing some and modernizing others, and in 1980 Stanley Leisure plc was incorporated. While continuing to buy up small chains of betting shops, when Ladbrokes lost its casino licence in the early 1980s he bought two of their casinos, in Liverpool and Manchester, and began to build a chain of casinos, including Star City in Birmingham, then the largest casino in the United Kingdom. In 1986 the company, still largely a regional chain based in the north-west, was floated on the London stock exchange, valued at £9 million. In 1999 Steinberg bought Capital Corporation, the owner of Crockfords in London, the oldest private gambling club in the world. Annual revenues of Stanley Leisure exceeded £1 billion in 2003, the year Steinberg stood down from the chairmanship of the company to become non-executive chairman. The bookmaking side of the business was sold to William Hill in 2005 for £500 million, and in 2006 Genting International, a Malaysian group, bought the casino business for £650 million. At its peak Stanley Leisure was Britain's fourth largest bookmaker, with 640 shops and 45 casinos, employing a workforce of 7000.
In the early 1990s Steinberg became interested in the proposal to set up an institute at the University of Salford for the academic study of gambling, and he was one of the most important donors to the Centre for Gambling and Commercial Gaming, which opened in 1994. As well as funding research into gambling, the institute ran professional development courses, but it closed in 2010. In order to make his philanthropy most effective, Steinberg founded the Steinberg Family Charitable Trust, which donated to many causes, but concentrated on gifts to Jewish and northern Irish charities. A former warden of the Belfast Hebrew Congregation, he was the first president of the Northern Ireland Friends of Israel, established in 2009, which he said embodied the two most important strands of his life. He made donations to a number of schools and medical centres in Israel, including the Lord Steinberg Hemed Torani-Environmental School in northern Israel. He was also president of the Manchester Jewish Federation, and a generous donor to Jewish causes in the Manchester area.
A lifelong member of the Ulster Unionist Party, retaining his membership of the North Belfast local association, Steinberg also donated large sums to the Conservative Party, and was vice-president of the Conservative Friends of Israel. From 1994 to 2002 he was deputy treasurer of the Conservative Party, and helped to attract new donors to the party. In 2005 he helped to set up a fund to contribute to the election campaigns of Conservative candidates in marginal constituencies in the north of England: of the thirty-three candidates who won back seats for the party in that year, twenty-five had received support from this fund. His other interests included cricket and stamp collecting: a member of Lancashire County Cricket Club from 1978, he served as president from 2007, and his collection of British and British empire stamps, auctioned by Sothebys after his death, fetched over £2.5 million.
Steinberg was made a life peer, as Baron Steinberg, in 2004. In his maiden speech in the House of Lords he said he had been born a Jew in Belfast, joined the Ulster Unionist Party, and had become an ardent Zionist and a bookmaker: the Lords can well imagine the heavy burden that I have had to bear (Hansard 5L, 667.180, 25 Nov 2004). He died on 2 November 2009 in St Thomas's Hospital, London, following a heart attack; his funeral was held on 4 November at Dunham Lawn cemetery, Altrincham, and he was buried on the Mount of Olives, in Jerusalem. He was survived by his wife, Beryl, and their two children.
Anne Pimlott Baker
www.steinberg.org.uk, accessed on 10 May 2012 · R. Munting, An economic and social history of gambling in Britain and the USA (1996) · C. Chinn, Better betting with a decent feller: bookmakers, betting and the British working class, 17501990, rev. edn (2004) · M. Ashcroft, Dirty politics, dirty times (2005), 287 · Belfast Telegraph (4 Nov 2009) · Racing Post (5 Nov 2009) · Irish News (7 Nov 2009) · Daily Telegraph (9 Nov 2009) · Jerusalem Post (11 Nov 2009) · The Times (12 Nov 2009); (20 Nov 2009) · Sunday Independent [Ireland] (15 Nov 2009) · The Independent (17 Nov 2009) · Irish Times (21 Nov 2009) · The philatelic collection of Lord Steinberg (2011), 69 · Jewish Chronicle (15 July 2011) · WW (2009) · personal knowledge (2013) · private information (2013) · m. cert. · d. cert.
photographs, 2004, Photoshot, London · obituary photographs · photograph, repro. in Jewish Chronicle (15 July 2011), · photograph, repro. in The philatelic collection
Wealth at death
£88,493,598: probate, 5 March 2010, CGPLA Eng. & Wales