Laithwaite’s, the world’s biggest family-owned wine retailer and Britain’s biggest wine company. It was founded as Direct Wines in 1969 by Tony Laithwaite, a geography student who worked on a modest wine farm in castillon, fell in love with wine, and began driving it back to the UK to sell from a railway arch in Windsor. His wife Barbara came on board the next year and steered the company with awesome efficiency until 1991. A key milestone was launching the Direct Sunday Times Wine Club in 1973, with hugh johnson as president. This feet-first introduction to the logistics of selling wine by mail order was enabled by Laithwaite’s whimsical charm and lateral thinking; he has always prided himself on operating outside the wine trade mainstream.