The pub company was founded in the early 19th century by Benjamin Greene, one of 47,000 people who benefited from the UK Government’s decision to compensate Britons when slavery was abolished in 1833.
The Telegraph reports Greene received nearly £500,000 in today’s money when he surrendered rights to three plantations in the West Indies.
Details of the sums are set out in a University College London (UCL) database.
Greene King, which was established in Bury St Edmunds in 1799 by Benjamin Greene, does mention its links to slavery on its website, but in relation to Greene once he left the company. It states:
'During its first 100 years, Greene King grows from the Greene’s Brewery, established in Bury St Edmunds by Benjamin Greene, to Greene, King and Sons, following an amalgamation with Frederick King’s St Edmunds brewery in 1887.
Benjamin Greene handed over the Greene’s Brewery to his son Edward in 1836. After founding the brewery, Benjamin went on to own cane sugar plantations in the West Indies where he was a slave owner. Even in the 1800s, his views on slavery were extremely unpopular and in the brewery’s home of Bury St Edmunds he wrote columns in his own newspaper that were critical of those campaigning for the abolition of slavery.'
“It is inexcusable that one of our founders profited from slavery and argued against its abolition in the 1800s," Nick Mackenzie, Greene King’s CEO told The Telegraph. "We don’t have all the answers, so that is why we are taking time to listen and learn from all the voices, including our team members and charity partners, as we strengthen our diversity and inclusion work.”
He added that Greene King would make a “substantial investment to benefit the BAME community and support our race diversity in the business as we increase our focus on targeted work in this area”.
According to UCL, Lloyd’s of London, Royal Bank of Scotland, Barclays Bank, HSBC and Lloyds Banking Group also benefited directly or indirectly from the slavery payments.
In a separate move, JD Wetherspoon (JDW) says is open to the possibility of renaming one of its sites due to historic links with the slave trade following the launch of an online petition.
According to the pub giant's website, its pub the Elihu Yale in Wrexham, north Wales, was named after a 17th century merchant who was instrumental in the founding of Yale University and is buried in the town’s churchyard.However, an online petition has been launched to change the pub's name in light of Elihu Yale’s involvement with the East India Company in Madras and its Indian Ocean slave trade.
The petition states: “Elihu Yale, who was originally from Massachusetts, America moved to London when he was three years old. He and his family made their fortune within the slave trade and has since been glorified for their involvement in the most sadistic part of human history.“Until very recently the sign on the front of the pub depicted Elihu with a black slave chained next to him. Due to retaliation from the community, the Wetherspoons pub sign was taken down and changed, but the name of the pub remains the same.
“This needs to be acknowledged and rectified and we need your signatures to make this happen.”