By Isabel Togoh
A largely unknown woman has pocketed a mammoth salary large enough to dwarf the earnings of some of the world’s legendary sporting and Hollywood stars.
Denise Coates, owner of betting firm Bet365, awarded herself more than a quarter-of-a-billion pounds last year, surpassing the earnings of boxer Floyd Mayweather, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, and Judge Judy.
Coates, who owns half of the online betting giant and is joint CEO, was paid a hefty £220 million salary in March, helpfully topped up with a £45m dividend. The past four years have seen her take in £665m in wages.
This possibly makes her the best-paid CEO in the world among those whose pay packets have been made public, positioning her above Google chief Sundar Pichai, on £156m last year, and Apple’s Tim Cook who took home £80m.
She is certainly the best-paid woman chief executive globally, and her nearly £6bn family fortune is approaching Sir James Dyson’s £9.5bn net worth.
But the revelation comes at a time when gambling addiction is under a spotlight. The number of children with a gambling problem has quadrupled to 50,000 in the past two years, a report by the Gambling Commission revealed this week, with gambling adverts being partly blamed as an influence.
And this month, the Government revealed it would fast-track a crackdown on highly-addictive betting machines in shops.
Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable was among those criticising her pay, tweeting: “New entry to list of outrageous #executiveawards . @denisecoates gets £265m annual pay from @bet365 for success in pushing #onlinegaming.
“Industry needs tough curbs on ads and levy to pay NHS for help on gambling addiction.. Dozens have killed themselves.”
But not all were outraged, with one sporting commentator tweeting: “In some cases [it’s] warranted but in hers she deserves respect from the public”.
Madness that the story about Bet365 isn’t how an empire was built thanks to Denise Coates vision but about her pay
This country is fast becoming he/she is rich let’s moan about them
In some cases it warranted but in hers she deserves respect from the public.
— sam sports mad (@sportingsamcan) November 21, 2018
Who Is Denise Coates?
Coates is no stranger to betting shops, having worked as a cashier in a small chain owned by her dad Peter Coates, also chairman of Stoke City football club, when she was a teenager.
The billionaire studied econometrics – a branch of economics – at Sheffield University, where she was awarded a first class degree before she trained as an accountant in the family business.
She later took on ownership of the chain and became managing director aged 22.
She moved the business from bricks and mortar to online after noticing increasing online activity in the sector. She launched the new Bet365 business with her brother, John, in 2001.
The Sheffield-born executive was awarded a CBE in 2012 for services to the community and business and has also started up the Denise Coates Foundation, formerly the Bet365 Foundation, in August 2012.
The charity has donated at least £100m to 20 UK charities.
Coates, 51, lives in Cheshire with her husband, Richard Smith, and their five children, and five years ago was named on the BBC Radio 4s Woman’s Hour power list in 2013.