Spotting the potential for the internet to supercharge the sports-betting industry, Denise Coates launched Bet365 in 2001. Two decades later, it’s become the most successful bookmaker in Britain. That’s not the only title she holds, however – she also leads the list of top UK taxpayers, writes Robert Jackman
Having worked at a cashier in her father’s bookmaking business, Denise Coates was one of the first to spot the potential for the internet to turbocharge the sports-betting industry. She re-mortgaged the family betting shops for £15 million and decided to take a gamble of her own.
Two decades on, the bet has paid off – and then some. Bet365 has become Britain’s most successful bookmaker, with more than 60 million customers and an eight percent market share. Its success propelled Coates up the list of Britain’s richest women. But there is one league table that the Stoke City fan (her father owns the club) leads outright: the list of top UK taxpayers.
In the most recent financial year, the Coates family (Denise, her father Peter and brother John) contributed a total of £573 million to the exchequer: enough to pay the state pensions of 67,725 retirees. The annual tax bill is equivalent to eight percent of the family’s estimated £7 billion wealth. A sizeable proportion of that sum comes from the taxes paid on Coates’ own salary. As joint chief executive (alongside her brother) and controlling shareholder of Bet365, she eschews dividends and instead paid herself a salary of £421 million, all of which was subject to the same income tax rules as the company’s 5,000 other employees. Coates has also donated £90 million to charitable causes in a single year.
While her status as ‘Britain’s biggest taxpayer’ might have made headlines, Coates remains stubbornly publicity-shy. She once told an interviewer that she could walk through the streets of her native Stoke-on-Trent (Where Bet365 has retained its headquarters) without being recognised whatsoever.
Some years on, that may well still be true.
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