Frederick Richards Leyland began his working career as an apprentice at the shipping company Bibby, Sons & Co. Leyland rose through the company to become a partner and when the Bibby partnership was dissolved in 1872, he bought out his employers and changed the company name to Frederick Leyland & Co. in 1873.
Under his direction the firm expanded into transatlantic trade and by 1882 had 25 steamships. He retired from active business in 1888, leaving control of the company to his son Frederick Dawson Leyland.
In 1892 the company was purchased by a consortium led by John Ellerman. In 1901 Ellerman sold the business to J. P. Morgan for £1.2 million and the company was absorbed into the International Marine Co.