Britain's Richest Woman: What To Know About Denise Coates

Denise Coates is Britain’s richest woman, with an annual salary of $281 million and a net worth of $6.8 billion—but who exactly is the tycoon behind the title, and how did she make her impressive fortune?

Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates. Much of the modern world is familiar with these billionaire tech giants, who’ve made their fortune through technology in different ways. Yet it’s not always a man’s world, as Denise Coates proves. Though some people may be unfamiliar with Coates, the BBC describes her as the wealthiest woman in Britain and among the highest-paid CEOs in the world. The self-made tycoon built Bet365, the digital gambling empire behind her grand fortune. Just last 2023, she received an annual salary of $281 million from the company. This puts her total net worth at around $6.8 billion based on Forbes estimates

The official logo of Bet365, Coates’ gambling firm worth billions of dollars
The official logo of Bet365, Coates’ gambling firm worth billions of dollars/Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Recently, the 56-year-old has been making headlines after multiple publications revealed her nine-digit salary. Certain groups have described it as neither “sensible” nor “proportionate,” reports George Ramsay of CNN. These criticisms come right after her widely-popular betting firm experienced pre-tax losses of roughly $77 million. Still, such suspicions haven’t changed the fact that Coates’ billion-dollar business has been standing strong for over two decades. So how exactly did Bet365 and Coates’ success come to be?

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Making a Gamble

Like many self-made billionaires, the earlier period of Coates’ professional life was quite simple. The young woman graduated from the University of Sheffield with a degree in economics, as per Daniel Thomas, Andrew Hill, and Oliver Barnes of the Financial Times. Soon after, she began helping her father’s bookmaking and football stadium catering businesses as a cashier. Then, she moved on to become an accountant within her family firm, reports Simon Bowers of The Guardian.

Denise Coates receives an honorary graduate degree from Staffordshire University in 2012
Denise Coates receives an honorary graduate degree from Staffordshire University in 2012/Photo from the Staffordshire University website

Later on, her father would ask her to save a small chain of betting shops, which she did successfully. However, such a task was only the beginning for Coates, whose mathematical inclinations drew her closer to the world of betting, adds Bowers. 

Coates saw the immense potential of online gambling. Back in the early 2000s, the platform had only started taking shape alongside the internet as we know it.  As such, she convinced her father to mortgage the family’s bookmaking chain. With the money from the mortgage and loans from the Royal Bank of Scotland, she transferred their entire business online. According to Forbes, she purchased Bet365’s domain in 2000, then launched its website in 2001, planting roots in the small city of Stoke-on-Trent. 

A Huge Win

Safe to say, Coates’ vision of a tech-driven future was almost prophetic. The company soon found itself rising to become one of Britain’s most powerful and recognizable gambling brands. George Ramsay of CNN reports that Bet365’s headquarters employs 7,500 people from around the world and receives over 90 million customers annually. 

Coates believed in a lucrative future for the world of gambling, moving quickly to secure Bet365’s place as an innovator in the digital world of betting
Coates believed in a lucrative future for the world of gambling, moving quickly to secure Bet365’s place as an innovator in the digital world of betting/Photo by Aidan Howe via Unsplash

“We mortgaged the betting shops and put it all into online. We knew the industry required big startup costs but […] we gambled everything on it. We were the ultimate gamblers if you like,” Coates tells Simon Bowers in an interview for The Guardian.

The firm has also recently expanded its operations to the United States and Canada, as per Lora Jones of the BBC, hence its increase in costs. Bet365 also owns and subsidizes the Stoke City Football Club, with Coates, her father, and her brother as its chairmen. By 2020, Coates’ yearly salary reached an all time high of £421 million (around $536 million today), adds Jones.

Bet365 gets around 90 million customers annually
Bet365 gets around 90 million customers annually/Photo by ben frost via Unsplash

Circling back, some critics are wary about the source of Bet365’s profits, as per Dan O’Boyle of The Standard. They suspect that Bet365’s success is largely due to its Chinese customers, who are reportedly its biggest market, according to the Financial Times. This, however, complicates things as China technically has an explicit ban on gambling, placing it in the “gray” market.

A Family Affair 

Most members of Coates’ family hold shares and positions within Bet365. This includes her father Peter, brother John (who serves as her joint CEO for legal and financial affairs), husband Richard, and sisters Moira and Siobhan, reports the Financial Times. 

A former executive at Bet365 tells the Financial Times that the family has always had tight control over the company. “Everything is siloed. You just talked about your part of the operation and that was it,” they tell the publication. “There’s probably only a handful of people that hold all the information.”

The rulers of the gambling dynasty have also been diligently paying their taxes. The Sunday Times Tax List reveals them to be the second-highest tax payers in the country with £460 million ($585 million) in contributions. Bet365 has also given £100 million ($127 million) to the Denise Coates Foundation, which supports various charities and initiatives within the UK and in other countries, reports CNN

The Private Life of a Boss

As for Coates’ leadership style and work ethic, another gambling executive shares that the businesswoman rarely “takes time-off” and “works all hours of the day” in the same Financial Times feature. This is further corroborated by Coates in her first and possibly only public interview with Simon Bowers of The Guardian in 2012, showing just how private she and her family are. 

“I really don’t enjoy the attention. The public side does not come naturally to me,” she shares in the interview with Bowers. “I’m not saying I’m a shrinking violet. I’m not. I’ve been bossy all my life. It’s just, I very much enjoy actually running the business.” One would expect such a relentless and persevering attitude from a woman who spent years cultivating such a powerful brand. 

“You start a 24/7 business and you work 24/7,” she states in the interview. “When you’re not here [in the office], you take calls in the middle of the night, regularly — that’s how the early days were. I’ve worked harder than you can possibly imagine.” Though we can’t imagine just how busy the journey was, Coates is certainly seeing the fruits of her labor today, making it quite the worthwhile endeavor, to say the least. 

Banner photo from the Staffordshire University website.

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