Cox & Kings
Cox And Kings is the longest established travel company in the world, its history stretching back to 1758 when Richard Cox was appointed as regimental agent to the Foot Guards. Cox & Kings is now an independent tour company with offices in the Australia, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, India, the United States and Japan. Its global headquarters are in London.
Richard Cox, the founder
Cox was born in Yorkshire in 1718. His father, Joshua, had made a good living as a lawyer and had moved from his birthplace in Clent in Worcestershire to Yorkshire. He then bought an estate near Quarley in Hampshire. Richard Cox came into the service of the English General, Lord Ligonier, as a clerk in the early 1740s. In 1747 he married Caroline Codrington, daughter of Sir William Codrington who was an established military figure.
Cox's career took off when Lord Ligonier led the Flanders campaigns of the War of the Austrian Succession. In one letter sent back to London, Richard Cox makes a demand that “suitable winter provisions and housing should be made available for the three English companies” and he became entwined with logistics and the general welfare of the troops. Ligonier made Cox his private secretary in the late 1740s, went on to become the Colonel of the First Foot Guards (Grenadier Guards) in 1757, and rewarded Cox with the post of 'military agent' after the incumbent died in May 1758. Thus was born Cox & Co, the forebear of Cox & Kings.
There were about a dozen main agents working for the army at the time and each Regimental Colonel chose one to serve their troops. These agents arranged the payment of officers and men, organised the provision of clothing, acted as intermediaries for the buying and selling of officers' commissions and acted on any special requests from the regimental adjutant. Duties ranged from the shipment of personal effects to the requisition of weapons or supplies. Cox had taken on the most prestigious infantry regiment, and the 63rd Regiment and the Royal Artillery soon followed suit.
In 1765 Cox went into partnership with Henry Drummond, whose family ran the London bank. Cox & Drummond moved from Cox's house in Albemarle Street to Craig's Court, just off what is now Whitehall. By the mid-1760s Cox & Drummond had blossomed to become agents for the Dragoons and eight more Infantry regiments. Success was built on the company’s reputation for keen attention to the welfare of its regiments. In 1763, for instance, when Robert Clive stormed the fortress of Gheria in India, Cox successfully negotiated with the East India Company who had 'borrowed' stores from Cox's clients, the Royal Artillery. He arranged to receive repayment from the East India Company by way of plunder from Gheria. He had this converted into silver in India and shipped back to London where the funds could be reunited with the Royal Artillery.
Back home, Cox's house on Albemarle Street (opposite the present day Ritz Hotel) was famous for its parties. In addition, he was a patron of the arts, being acquainted with David Garrick and other notable actors of the time, and was a founding financial investor in the rebuilding of the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane. He was also a generous benefactor to St George's Hospital on Hyde Park Corner (now the Lanesborough Hotel). The records of the family estate at Quarley show that Cox spent over £3,000 per annum running it, much of it lavished on his wife.
By 1768, Cox & Drummond was flourishing with a turnover of £345,000 per annum. During the 1770s the company continued to grow, aided by war in the American Colonies and the threat of invasion from France. Cox repeated his good fortune with business partners, taking in Mr Mair upon Drummond’s death in 1772, followed by his own son Richard Bethnell Cox in 1779 and then Mr Greenwood in 1783. It was during this time that the company expanded its banking interests, offering loans and accounts to exclusive members of London's elite. Frederick, Duke of York, introduced Cox's business partner Mr Greenwood to his father George III, as 'Mr Greenwood, the gentlemen who keeps my money'. Greenwood replied rather cheekily that, 'I think it is rather his Royal Highness who keeps my money,' to which George III burst out in laughter and said, 'Do you hear that Frederick? Do you hear that? You are the gentleman who keeps Mr Greenwood's money!'
The company was thriving by the time of the outbreak of war with France in 1793, employing some 35 clerks. In 1795 they served 14 regiments of cavalry, 64 infantry regiments and 17 militia regiments, becoming the largest military agent for the army. Richard Cox died in August 1803, leaving his grandson Richard Henry Cox firmly established, with Mr Greenwood as controlling partner.
The 19th century and onwards
Cox & Co grew through the 18th and 19th centuries. Timely alliances with the great banking families such as the Hammerlseys and Greenwoods secured an established position in London, and by the end of the 19th century most Regiments used Cox & Co as their agents. As the empire grew, Cox & Co met the demand for officers to be looked after. The company set up five branches in India between 1905 and 1911.
When the Great War began Cox & Co employed some 180 staff, of which one third joined the army. During the Great War some 250,000 men were on their books, 50,000 cheques were cleared a day and a special department was set up to deal with the influx of American soldiers in 1917. By the end of the war some 4,500 people worked for the firm.
After the war, Cox & Co. expanded to Alexandria and Egypt (1919 and 1920) and Rangoon (1921). In October 1922, Cox & Co bought Henry S. King Bank, who had a large network of branches in India. They also moved into new offices in Pall Mall. However, in 1923, Cox & Kings were still suffering from the downturn in business caused by the surrender of the Germans in 1918. They were forced to sell to Lloyds Bank.
During the 1930s, Lloyds sold their Indian interests to Grindlays Bank, who also took the Travel and Shipping Agencies, which continued to flourish in India. When a change in British banking regulations meant Grindlays had to sell off non-banking interests, a partnership between Ajit Kerkar and Anthony Good bought Cox & Kings. The company remains independent to this day and is run by CEO Peter Kerkar.
Cox & Kings opened its USA office in June 1988 in New York, NY. In June 1998 the USA office moved to Tampa, Florida. In August 2009, Cox & Kings USA came under the umbrella brand of East India Travel Company, which is a subsidiary of Cox & Kings, Ltd., the global parent company. In October 2010, Cox & Kings USA has been rebranded Cox & Kings, The Americas, and is responsible for all sales for clients in North and South America. Cox & Kings, The Americas is headed by Centre Head and COO Thomas Stanley. Cox & Kings, The Americas relocated from Tampa Florida to Los Angeles, California in May 2011.
Cox & Kings purchased Tempo Holidays, a Melbourne based wholesale travel company in July 2008, for an undisclosed sum rumoured to be in the vicinity of US$25 million.
Cox & Kings purchased Bentours (based in Sydney, Australia), previously owned by UK giant TUI, in January 2010. Bentours would "continue to operate as a standalone brand" but would "be controlled by Cox & Kings Australia’s office in Melbourne" according to Cox and Kings Australia CEO Steve Reynolds.
References and sources
- Booker, John. "Cox, Richard". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/45706. (subscription or UK public library membership required)
- Lloyds Bank Pamphlet (1990), Cox's & King's: The Evolution of a Military Tradition
- Lloyds TSB Archives. Cox & Co 1758 to 1922 – an excellent selection of company records, the private papers of Richard Cox and partners. Details 
- Marcus Potter (2006) 'Richard Cox' Cox & Kings Travel Compass Magazine
- Leslie Pressnell and John Orbell (1985), Guide to the Historical Records of British Banking
- Cox and Kings to acquire Tempo Holidays in Australia. TravelBizMonitor. 11-July-2008. 
- Cox & Kings inks Bentours deal. Travelweekly.com.au. 11-January-2010. 
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- Lloyds TSB Archives.
- Cox and Kings to acquire Tempo Holidays in Australia
- Cox & Kings inks Bentours deal.