Sir Frederick William “Fred” Pontin (24 October 1906 – 30 September 2000) was the less flamboyant business rival of Sir Billy Butlin, but made up for it by spotting holiday industry trends that saw his business thrive on a wide scale.
Fred was born in Highams Park to a family of East End cabinet makers, and after leaving school at 15 with no qualifications, decided on a career in the stock exchange, working for several stockbrokers before a 10 year stint with Rock Investments Company, where he acquired experience of company investment, group shares and market dealings. In 1937, he set up in business on his own, running a football pool in London before the onset of war saw him transferred to Orkney, where he was appointed catering manager during the construction of a naval base. He was later directed to Kidderminster, where he managed a hostel for steel and sugar beet workers and overcame hostile conditions with a touch of cunning.
These experiences during the war were put to good use when Fred decided that demobbed servicemen and women, finding themselves with demob gratuities, would welcome a holiday. By forming a syndicate to raise the funds, Fred was able to buy the former military camp at Bream Sands near Burnham-on-Sea, Somerset, and rebrand it as a holiday camp. He continued this strategy and by 1975 owned the majority stake in 25 holiday villages that were making a profit of £3.6m. Fred sold out his main leisure interests to the Coral group in 1978, but continued to invest in hotels and catering well into his eighties.
Fred’s charity work saw him raise more than £1m for the Variety Club of Great Britain. He was also a member of the Grand Order of Water Rats, and of the Lord’s Taverners. He was knighted in 1976 and honoured by the Hall of Fame in 1998.