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Denise Coates, the best paid female executive in the world

posted onDecember 17, 2018

Denise Coates is a British billionaire businesswoman, the founder and chief executive of Bet365, an online gambling business dynasty worth £5.8 bn.

Coates was born in 1967. While a schoolgirl, she started work in the cashiers' department within the family bookmaking firm, Provincial Racing, where she would mark up bets. 

She earned a first class degree in econometrics from the University of Sheffield. After leaving university she trained as an accountant within the family business, before being given the opportunity to take over her father's chain of betting shops. At around the turn of the millennium, became aware of the jackpot opportunity that lay online and in January 2000 she bought the domain name  for £1,950.

After spending a year creating a new online betting site, was finally launched. The business borrowed £15 million from RBS against the family's bricks-and-mortar stores to develop sports-betting technology that left slow-moving rivals in the dust. In 2005 these shops were sold to Coral, a chain of betting shops in the UK, for £40 million which also paid off the loan to RBS.

"We mortgaged the betting shops and put it all into online. We knew the industry required big start-up costs but… we gambled everything on it. We were the ultimate gamblers if you like," she told The Guardian in 2012. 

coates family
John, Denise and Peter Coates outside the bet365 headquarters in Etruria Photo:

Bet365, which is not listed on the stock market, has grown into one of the world's largest online gambling companies and claims to have 35 million customers. The firm's revenues were £2.7 bn, up by 25% in the year to the end of March and operating profit was up by 31%. Bet365 also owns a majority stake in Stoke City Football Club. 

Coates is the majority shareholder with 50.01% of Bet365 and runs the firm jointly with her brother, John Coates. Her  80-year-old father Peter is the firm's chairman. Another example of how strong families build strong businesses.

In 2017 she became the UK's highest paid boss, receiving gross payments of £217m for the 2016–17 financial year. The package consisted of £199,305,000 in wages, along with £18m in dividend payments. Her annual pay has now risen to £265 million, according to the firm's latest accounts.

bet365's headquarters in Etruria Photo:

In 2012, Coates set up the Bet365 Foundation, a registered charity under English law, which in 2016 was renamed to Denise Coates Foundation. It has donated £100 million to twenty UK charities inlcuding Oxfam, CAFOD, the Douglas Macmillan Hospice to help support projects home and abroad.  University scholarships and theatre donations have also been offered.
The charity has an income of £51.6 million ($66.3 million) and spent £6.5 million ($8.3 million) for the financial year ending March 26, 2017, according to the Charity Commission. 
Coates is married to Richard Smith, and they have 5 children. As of May 2018, Forbes magazine estimated her net worth at $4.6 billion.

Bet365 continues to keep one step ahead. It's moving into the US as the supreme court there repealed a decades-old ban on sports betting and the market opens us. Seems like businesses run by strong families have the DNA to thrive.