The Rise of Denise Coates: One of Britain’s Wealthiest Women

As of last year, 55-year-old entrepreneur Denise Coates was the highest-paid chief executive in British commerce. Even the Sunday Times Rich List states that Coates is one of the richest women in the UK, thanks solely to her success with the Stoke-on-Trent-based online bookmaker bet365. This brand has become famous worldwide for its in-play sports betting coverage, while its more recent launch into iGaming has also borne fruit, thanks in no small part to its highly regarded marketing tools aimed at first-time customers.

During her education, Coates spent time working within her family’s bookmaking business, Provincial Racing. After earning a first-class degree in econometrics, Coates returned to Provincial Racing as an accountant. She would later become managing director of the business, which amounted to a modest but successful chain of retail betting shops in Staffordshire.

Coates had the bravery to double-down on online sports betting

As the ‘dotcom boom’ took hold, Coates saw an opportunity in the emerging internet market. After reserving the domain name, Coates spent the next 12 months developing a next-generation online sports betting site, which opened its doors in 2001. The launch was funded in part by a £15m loan from the Royal Bank of Scotland, leveraged against the Provincial Racing betting shop estate.

This estate was later sold to competitor bookmaker Coral in a deal worth £40m in 2005, enabling bet365 to comfortably pay off its debts and look to the future. Fast forward a decade and bet365 was considered one of the biggest gambling brands on the planet. It was handling almost £39 billion in bets annually across its sports betting markets and casino games.

Coates has been praised for several aspects surrounding the rise of bet365. First and foremost, its marketing campaigns involving well-known British actor, Ray Winstone, became iconic with seasoned and casual sports bettors. Secondly, bet365 worked hard to develop a rock-solid cross-platform betting experience, transcending desktop, laptop, smartphone and tablet devices. Coates is a prime example of someone with a vision for the future and the bravery to put her money to the test.

However, Coates has not been without her critics. In 2017, she paid herself an annual salary of a staggering £217m. This amount went higher still to £421m in 2020 and was higher than the salaries of all other CEOs at firms within the FTSE 100 combined.

With a personal wealth of more than £12 billion, she is undoubtedly the most powerful figure in the British bookmaking scene.