The multibillionaire boss of gambling company Bet365 has collected annual pay and dividends of more than £260m – one of the world’s biggest-ever pay awards but less than the record-breaking £471m she collected in 2020.
Denise Coates, who set up Bet365 in a portable building in Stoke-on-Trent in 2000, was paid a salary of £213m in the year to March 2022, according to the company’s latest accounts published on Friday. As the company’s controlling shareholder she is also entitled to at least 50% of the £100m in dividend paid for the year.
While her £263m pay is huge – and works out at just over £1m for every working day of the year – it is 12% less than the £300m she collected in 2021, as the company paid out less profit while spending millions on international expansion plans.
It takes the total paid to Coates since 2016 to almost £1.5bn.
Her extraordinary pay package regularly ranks among the highest in Britain and will maintain her status as the world’s best paid woman at a time when many in the UK and across the globe are struggling to cope with the rising cost of living.
Luke Hildyard, the director of the High Pay Centre, which campaigns for restraint in excessive executive pay, said it was “hopelessly inefficient for such a huge amount of income to accrue to one individual” when so many people in Britain were “going through such hardship”.
He added: “A payment this size is obviously vastly more than necessary to encourage or reward success. Even the best business leaders depend on things beyond their control like an educated workforce, affluent customers and a stable economy. There really is no moral or economic justification for such extreme payouts and the inequality and division that they create.”
Coates built Bet365 into one of the biggest online gambling companies from her father Peter’s Stoke-on-Trent bookmaking business. It has propelled her, her father and her brother, John, into the ranks of the UK’s richest people, with a combined fortune of £8.6bn according to the Sunday Times Rich List, which featured her on the cover of the latest edition.
In the latest financial year, Bet365’s profits dropped significantly. It made a pre-tax profit of £49.8m for the year (after a £26.2m loss from its ownership of Stoke City Football Club). That was significantly less than the £469m profit reported in the previous year.
Gambling revenues increased by 2% during the year to £2.85bn. Sports betting revenues fell by 2% but its online games revenues jumped by 25% during the year to make up the lost ground.
The drop in profits was largely driven by £320m in extra “administration expenses” that included advertising in new markets and spending on extra computers for expansion. It reported launches in Argentina’s capital, Buenos Aires, the Netherlands, and in Colorado and Ontario in North America.
Bet365’s staff numbers rose to almost 6,100, up from 5,400 the year before.
The company did not respond to requests for comment.
After graduating with a first-class degree in econometrics – the application of statistical methods to economic data – from the University of Sheffield, Coates expanded the family’s Provincial Racing chain to nearly 50 betting shops.
As the millennium approached, she decided the future of betting was online and bought the Bet365.com domain on eBay for $25,000 (£19,000), a move that helped catapult her and her family up the UK wealth league.
Coates was awarded a CBE in 2012 for services to the community and business, and has become known as the “patron of the Potteries” for her decision to continue to base Bet365 in Stoke, where it is the largest private sector employer.
“We mortgaged the betting shops and put it all into online,” she said at the time. “We knew the industry required big startup costs but we gambled everything on it.”
The revelation of her latest mega payday came just days after research showed the bosses of Britain’s biggest companies made more money in 2023 by Thursday afternoon than the average UK worker will earn in the entire year.
Paul Nowak, the general secretary of the TUC, the unions’ umbrella body, called on the government to intervene to “bring back some fairness on pay” as many lower-paid workers struggle with swingeing real-term cuts to their income.
“Everyone deserves a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work. But while working people are told not to ask for more, top pay is soaring,” he said. “We need government action to bring back some fairness on pay. Workers should have seats on executive pay committees to bring some common sense to top pay. And ministers must set out plans for fair pay for everyone, starting by agreeing to pay negotiations in the public sector.”