The story of the business building duo of Eric Thompson and Ted Benson goes all the way back to their childhood days. Thompson was thirteen and Benson was twelve when they landed on the same youth soccer team. Neither were top players. They spent a lot of time talking on the bench and a fast friendship was formed. Even though they lived a good distance from each other they ended up spending a lot of time hanging out at each other’s homes. Thompson had a love of board games like Monopoly and Clue, even over the popular video games. So when they were at his house the two would have epic board game battles.
For Benson’s part he had the spirit of an businessman even in his early teens. On the times there was actual warm weather in London he and Thompson would do the typical kid thing of selling lemonade and iced tea. But these two took it to another level. Instead of setting up a stand near home they went to where the customers were. They would use a pair of wagons to transport their business to a corner near places that sold ice cream and sodas. They would flag down customers looking to cool down from the heat and make a semi-killing on that day.
In high school Benson was on the cutting edge of making as much extra money as possible. His most successful enterprise was throwing periodic weekend parties for teens. After a little trial and error he and Thompson came up with a winning formula. They would talk social clubs or youth centers into letting them rent their halls or ballrooms at a discount price because they were young kids trying to be enterprising. They would do the same thing for printers when it came to promotional flyers. Added to the mix was recruiting a local upstart band to do a few songs for publicity sake and for a percentage of the gate. Thompson had some DJ skills and that took care of the music. A deal was cut with local marts for soft drinks. In most cases if nothing went wrong the pair would clear enough cash to pocket and also promote the next party.
By the time he had reached high school Thompson had replaced his love for board games with real world gambling. Armed with a fake ID he invaded land based casinos with the hopes of making a killing. That didn’t happen at first. He quickly learned his expertise in gambling only existed in black jack. After breaking even for several sessions Thompson had a magic night that rang up enough winnings to help finance his college career.
When it came to college Benson had a clear picture of what he desired, and that was a degree in Business Administration. Thompson went along for the ride at the same university, choosing to major in marketing and advertising. Once again the pair got practical experience in operating a business. This time it was the low rated college radio station. Benson took over as the general manager of the radio station when nobody else wanted the job. He brought Thompson in as his assistant.
The pair began to change the station by insisting on playing only the best music across all genres, be it oldies or current material. But what really changed things was they were able to reach the public relations people of artists in town to perform in London. They got the artists to commit to interviews on the station. Mick Jagger actually showed up at the little radio station booth. They spoke with Elton John over the phone. They had a remote encounter with rapper Snoop Dogg at his hotel room. The station became so popular than many people were upset when Thompson and Benson left their jobs after graduating.
Benson began his work life with a top notch London ad agency. He began as an apprentice copywriter. He spent a lot of time editing and proofreading. At times he felt like he was trapped in a going nowhere box.
Things changed in a back door route, He began dating a secretary of a top executive at the agency. Through talking shop Benson learned there was a problem campaign in which no one could come up with a tag line for a laxative print ad. Benson was somewhat friendly with the campaign executive. One day he cornered him in the office building cafeteria and made a couple tag line pitches. The executive was impressed enough to use them and give Benson credit. One of the tag lines worked like a charm.and the client account was saved. This got Benson bumped up to a second tier copywriter.
Somewhere in the middle of college Thompson transformed from a gambler to someone interested in working in the gambling industry. He had wanted to work for a land based casino, but work was thin in London, and he wasn’t keen on working outside the country.
Thompson was lucky enough to find work with an online casino. It was a start up company owned by a land based casino. They staff was small and they had to be jacks of all trades.
Great timing was a part of how the founding of Sure Bet came about. Thompson and Benson were watching a soccer match when Thompson blurted out that he though it was time they launched their online casino. A high quality business plan was put together by the pair. The plan was pitched to a group of venture capitalist R.J St. John was a billionaire that loved their business plan. How they wanted to go about standing out in the crowd of online casinos was also right up St. John’s alley. With hard work and the backing of St. John the Sure Bet Casino was soon up and running.
Success came early and often for the new venture. The ride to glory lasted five years. By the third year offers to buy Sure Bet came from the leading companies in the gaming industry. Benson, Thompson, and St. John didn’t agree to a sale to the Hot Dice Collection until they had plans of going beyond their original venture. Benson was convinced they could make more money with less work if they invested in start up companies related to the online gambling industry. This was how the ZF Group was formed.