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Bet365 boss Denise Coates breaks record again with £323m payday 22/12/19
Rupert Neate
• Highest amount paid to a chief executive of a British company and breaks the previous record held by Coates of £265m set the previous year.
• Coates is now the UK’s 19th-richest person having an estimated fortune of £6.9bn.

Denise Coates, the multibillionaire founder of the gambling company Bet365, paid herself £323m last year.

Her pay equates to £1.3m for every working day last year. It is 9,500 times the average UK salary and more than 2,000 times the amount paid to the prime minister, Boris Johnson.

Coates, 52, was paid a base salary of £276,585,000 in the year to March 2018, accounts filed at Companies House revealed on 18th Dec 2019. On top of this, she collected dividend payments of about £45m from her shareholding of more than 50% in the Stoke-on-Trent-based company.

In the past three years, Coates has collected a total of £817m. Over the same period, the average amount earned by the people of Stoke was £66,500. Her pay works out at 18,500 times that of the average woman in the city.

Luke Hildyard, who campaigns against excessive executive remuneration at the High Pay Centre, said: “This looks like cynical timing, sneaked out straight after a general election campaign where excess wealth, taxes on the rich and the vast gap between those at the top and everybody else have been key issues.

“It’s important that wealth and how it’s created and shared are properly debated. But the publication of these figures seems designed to avoid scrutiny, suggesting that even Bet365 recognises that, while business success should be rewarded, such a colossal payout goes far beyond what is fair or proportionate.”

The accounts had been expected to be filed on or around 20 November and no reason was given for the delay. A spokesman for Coates and Bet365 did not respond to requests for comment.

Bet365 sent a selected version of its accounts to gambling industry trade publications on Monday and Tuesday of the same week they were filed and warned them not to pass the documents on to national newspapers. Their websites did not mention her bumper payday.

The company paid its top directors and managers, who include Coates’ brother and father, a total of £428m.

She keeps herself out of the public eye and rarely gives media interviews. Coates and the rest of her family – including her brother John, the co-chief executive; her husband, Richard Smith, a Stoke City director; and her father, who chairs Stoke City – control 93% of Bet365.

After graduating with a first-class degree in econometrics – the application of statistical methods to economic data – from Sheffield University, 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 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 start-up costs but we gambled everything on it.”

It was revealed last year that Coates had spent £5.5m buying up hundreds of acres of farmland surrounding her home, purchasing 12 separate plots of land since 2014.

She was reported to have been spending £90m building a large glass home with a 7,000 sq metre (75,000 sq ft) lake, a boat house, tennis court, stables and walled garden.

Bet365 made a £85m donation to the Denise Coates Foundation, which mostly funds medical and education charities. The charity has not made any donations to gambling or addiction charities.

The online gambling company, which almost went bust after the first dotcom bubble burst, has increased revenues by double digits every year since 2006.

But there are signs that challenges are emerging. The latest accounts showed a notable slowdown in revenue growth, from 26 per cent in 2017 to 9.7 per cent last year. Bet365’s share of the UK online betting market fell from 25.4 per cent to 20 per cent. It said that although the number of active customers was up 23 per cent, marketing spend had again increased.

The slowdown reflects a tougher UK market. Across established markets in Europe and Australia, gambling in shops and online has also come under increasing pressure. Italy banned all advertising of gambling this year, while the tax rate for operators in Denmark increased from 20 to 28 per cent.

Bet365 has largely managed to survive the harsher regulations, outperforming its industry peers. This year, as publicly listed gambling companies William Hill and GVC, the owner of Ladbrokes Coral, announced they were shutting 1,600 shops, Bet365, which operates solely online, took on an additional 600 employees.

Growth has also come from in-play betting, where punters can gamble on anything from the length of a kick to who will score the next goal during football matches. This is a a sophisticated service that Ms Coates pioneered in the early 2000s. In-play betting makes up 79 per cent of Bet365’s sports betting revenues.