Rentokil started out as the idea of an entomologist, Professor Harold Maxwell-Lefroy, and has grown into the world’s leading commercial pest control services company and the most recognised brand in the industry.
Since our first commercial pest control contract (treating the Houses of Parliament in the UK for deathwatch beetles in 1914), we have been committed to protecting homes and businesses from damaging pest infestations through expert pest control services, service excellence and leading innovation.
The experts in pest control – a timeline:
1903: Mr A. P. Bigelow introduced a towel rental service to businesses in London. Each towel was marked with the customer’s initials, which ensured that customers only received their own towels, leading to the name, ‘Initial Towel Supply Company’.
1906: Danish pharmacist, Georg Neumann of Aalborg discovered a strain of bacteria lethal to rats and mice, which became known commercially as Ratin. The first London sales office opened in 1906, and in 1926 they started offering pest control services – killing rats and mice – in addition to selling pest control products.
1920: Harold Maxwell-Lefroy, Professor of Entomology at Imperial College London, was asked to study ways of exterminating Deathwatch beetles in Westminster Hall and in time began receiving regular orders.
1924: Harold Maxwell-Lefroy started supplying bottles of woodworm fluid from a small factory in Hatton Garden, which he called ‘Ento-kill fluids’ – an amalgam of the Greek work ‘entomon’ meaning insect and the English word ‘kill’.
1925: Rentokil is born. The company was registered in 1925 as Rentokil Limited due to trade name objections preventing the name ‘Entokill’.
1928: The Initial Towel Supply Company floated on the stock market and during the 1930s BET (British Electric Traction) acquired a small stake in Initial.
1940: Demand for pest control services began extending beyond rodent control to insect control. British Ratin made its first acquisition, Chelsea Insecticides Ltd in 1040.
1944: Dr Norman Hickin joined Rentokil Limited as an entomologist. He started a servicing section which became Woodworm and Dry Rot Control Ltd in 1952.
1946: Shortly after WW2 Reykjavik found itself overrun with both brown and black rats. Rentokil was called in to deal with the problem and within a few weeks, the rats were eradicated.
The Mayor of Reykjavik wrote to express his appreciation for the work that was not only successful but that also “received no complaints of accident or illness among people or pets”.
1957: By the mid-1950s, the synergies between British Ratin and Rentokil Ltd had become obvious and British Ratin acquired Rentokil Ltd and its service arm, Woodworm and Dry Rot Control Ltd.
1960: Rentokil Group Ltd. was adopted as the main title of the Company.
1962: On 1 January 1962 all the UK trading companies became divisions of Rentokil Laboratories Ltd, shortened to Rentokil Limited.
1964: Rentokil launched in Asia, through the acquisition of Anti Pest in Hong Kong and Fumigation & Pest Control in Singapore.
1965: Rentokil signed a 10-year contract with the City Fathers of Hamelin – the first since a certain Pied Piper had been called in 1284!
1966: Rentokil was awarded a contract to repel birds at Buckingham Palace and pest control at the newly opened Post Office Tower (BT Tower).
1967: Rentokil Laboratories (Pty) Ltd. was registered as a company in South Africa. Their first offices were at 8-10 Glosderry Road, Claremont, Cape Town.
1969: Rentokil Group Ltd was listed on the London Stock Exchange with one of the largest new issues of shares the City had seen. In the same year, it established the basis of a hygiene division with the purchase of Rashbrooke Chemical Company and in 1970 acquired Thames Services for £1million.
1973: Rentokil was called upon to carry out termite treatment to the foundations of the newly completed Sydney Opera House as guided tours and test performances took place ahead of its official opening.
1979: Rentokil secured a pest control services contract for the newly-built NatWest Tower in the City of London – at that time it was Britain’s tallest building. In South Africa, the washroom business started in the late 1970s with only Ablution hygiene and Feminine hygiene services being offered.
1985: In the early 80s BET increased its stake in Initial to 40%, and in 1985 BET acquired the remaining 60%. This allowed it to merge Initial with Advance Service’s laundry operations while retaining the Initial brand name.
1987: Rentokil acquired Thomas Cowan and cemented its position as the leading pest control provider in Malaysia and Singapore.
During the 70s, 80s and 90s Rentokil embarked on geographical expansion. A healthcare division (now hygiene) was set up during this period, bolstered by the global acquisition of Calmic Washroom Hygiene.
1994: Rentokil treated the soil around the new Petronas Twin Towers, Kuala Lumpur, to keep what was then the world’s tallest building free of termites.
1996: Rentokil made its largest acquisition to date, BET (British Electric Traction) and the Initial brand passed to Rentokil.
2001: Rentokil Tropical Plants won their first gold medal at Britain’s most celebrated horticultural events, the Chelsea Flower Show. They went on to win many more gold and silver gilt awards at the Hampton Court Flower Show and BBC Gardeners’ World Live events.
2005: Stiftsgården – Norway’s Royal Residence – discovered an infestation of clothes moths. Rentokil treated over 300 items of furniture, including the original Crowning Chairs, using their unique Controlled Atmosphere Technology system.
2007: Rentokil launched the world’s smartest mousetrap – RADAR – the Rodent Activated, Detection And Riddance device which combines CO2 and infrared technology. Rentokil Initial entered Asia’s fastest-growing economies of Brunei, India, and China.
2008: Ambius is born when Rentokil Tropical Plants was renamed Ambius and began to expand its service offering to include ambient scenting and corporate artwork. Rentokil was selected as the preferred supplier of pest control services and products to the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
2009: Rentokil Initial announced an agreement with Google to move its global email and communication platform to Google Apps. Rentokil was called in by the Ministry for Public Utilities of Libya to deal with rats in its major cities. In Tobruk, a crack team supported the World Health Organisation to tackle an outbreak of the Bubonic plague.
2012: Our operations expanded to new territories with acquisitions in Turkey, Brazil, Abu Dhabi and Dubai. In North America, the acquisition of Western Exterminator made Rentokil one of the largest players in the US pest control market.
Industry-leading R&D has always been a feature of Rentokil Initial’s operations. In 2012 a Global Science Centre was established to undertake research, development and regulatory work for the Pest Control and Hygiene businesses.
2013: Initial launched Signature – a stylish range of quality washroom products made from durable materials with an integral antibacterial surface that helps reduce the spread of germs. Signature won the prestigious Red Dot Design award in 2014.
2014: Our RADAR mousetraps are enabled with technology to automatically alert technicians and update service records in myRentokil (our customer extranet) in the event of a mouse being detected. Rentokil launched its first global 24-hour Pestaurant event, with pop-up stands serving edible insects to 20,000 people in 12 cities – including Cape Town’s Good Food and Wine Show.
2015: Rentokil made its 50th acquisition in the US – consolidating its position as one of the largest national pest control companies in the world’s biggest pest control market.
2016: Rio Olympic games: Rentokil provided an intensive range of preventative pest control services to the Athletes’ Village, Operating Village, three Media Villages, arenas, stadiums and the Olympic Parks, including hospitality areas.
2017: Rentokil Initial forms a joint venture with PCI Pest Control. PCI’s operations in 250 locations and 6,900 colleagues join forces with the existing Rentokil team to become the biggest pest control service in India. Rentokil launches Lumnia, a new generation of energy-efficient LED fly killers designed to attract, kill and encapsulate insects hygienically, eliminating the risk of contamination in hygiene-critical areas.
Rentokil Pest Control is awarded The Queen’s Award for Enterprise for International Trade, recognising the business’s outstanding achievement in global trade.
2018: Rentokil Initial celebrates a milestone of £200,000 pounds raised for Malaria No More UK. Colleagues continue to raise funds through bike rides, marathons and cake sales.
Rentokil Initial plc announces a new partnership with Cool Earth to support its work in Papua New Guinea, protecting around 1,000 acres of rainforest and so preventing the release of at least 228,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions, equivalent to the company’s entire carbon footprint.
Rentokil Pest Control is awarded The Queen’s Award for Enterprise for Innovation, recognising the Company’s leadership position in digital innovation, in particular, its RADAR and PestConnect systems.
We are proud to be one of the most successful commercial pest control services companies in the world; offering a greater global reach than any other, providing services in over 70 countries across more than 1000 branch offices, employing over 36,000 pest control specialists.