Charity run by Bet365 boss is accused of 'sitting on millions'

Charity run by Bet365 gambling tycoon Denise Coates is accused of ‘sitting on millions’ in donations after spending £9.9m in a year despite boasting £384m in reserves – as projects it has backed are revealed to include art exhibition and gymnastics centre

  • The foundation, set up in August 2012, and had £85million of donations last year
  • Most recent accounts viewable show just £9.9million was spent on causes
  • History of grants show money going on medical research and art exhibition 

A charitable foundation run by Britain’s highest-paid boss Bet365 exec Denise Coates is ‘sitting on’ millions in donations – but has funded a number of eclectic projects including an art exhibition, a gymnastics centre and research on genetic links to heart disease.

The Denise Coates Foundation was created in August 2012 by the tycoon, who it emerged this week had been paid a record £421million for her job.

She has personally donated millions to the fund and last year’s Charity Commission papers show £85million came into the cause, which has reserves and assets of £384million.

But £9.09million was spent on charitable activities, similar to the previous year when £9.56million was spent after £85million was again donated.

A MailOnline audit of public documents show the funds which have been spent have been sent to an eclectic mix of recipients.

They include £1million on a mentoring programme in the Lilongwe District of Malawi, £1.6million into medical research into if cardiovascular disease is genetic and £423,300 into the Tate Gallery exhibition of artist Lynette Yiadom-Boakye. 

Bet 365 chief executive Denise Coates founded the foundation named after her in 2012

The Denise Coates Foundation building, bearing the name of the charity she founded

Artist Lynette Yiadom-Boakye attends the ICA fundraising gala at ICA on June 11, 2014

Elsewhere the foundation has paid £2,698,073 to help a local hospice to the Stoke-based firm, £3,088,700 to fund university bursaries and scholarships and £2,182,928 to renovate and create one of the country’s most advanced gymnastics centres. 

Last year it announced in April it had donated £10million to the NHS, but the accounts documents are not available on this yet. 

Most of the charity’s reserves are in an endowment fund, which lets it operate without the need for constant donations. 

Matt Zarb-Cousin, director of Clean Up Gambling, agreed it was surprising such a large amount had been given to something like an art exhibition. 

He added to MailOnline: “Bloated pay packets are made off the backs of addiction, and the priority should be to regulate these firms better so gambling harm is prevented.

“But given the vast majority of Bet365’s profits are coming from those harmed, the very least that should be expected of the online gambling sector is ensuring treatment services are not chronically underfunded, as they have been for years as operators consistently miss their target of donating 0.1% of profits.” 

Kishan Patel, from the gambling harm group Talkgen, had earlier told the Times money could be used to fund services to address gambling addiction.  

Charity Commission papers show donations over the years compared to charitable activity

Bet365 boss is in top 5 richest women in UK 

Kirsten Rausing is the UK’s richest woman and has a fortune of £12.1billion.

Her money comes from the packaging firm Tetra Laval and she is the 150th richest person in the world. 

Charlene de Carvalho-Heineken is the second most wealthy woman in the UK, thanks to her stake in beer firm Heineken.

She is worth £10.3billion.

Marit Hausing only this year reached the third in the richest list, but in sad circumstances.

Her £12.1billion fortune came through inheritance after the death of her husband Hans. 

Kirsty Bertarelli is the fourth richest woman in the UK with her £9.2billion fortune.

She is a former Miss UK and comes from the family that owned world ceramics firm Churchill China. 

Bet365 boss Denise Coates is the fifth richest woman in the UK and is worth £7.2billion.

She started working in bookmaking as a teenager when she worked in shops owned by her father, the son of a miner who made his fortune in the sports stadium catering business.

He said: “Research, education and treatment into gambling harm has been chronically underfunded for several years now and the Denise Coates Foundation sits on £300 million and never made any donation to reduce or prevent gambling harm.

“I presume the foundation isn’t going to lose that source of income any time soon and this is a huge amount of money that could have been hugely useful during this difficult period for the UK.

“The UK is miles behind other countries like New Zealand and Australia in tackling gambling harm.

“Using a larger chunk of this huge sum could help the UK catch up and avoid more families suffering from the devastating consequences of gambling addiction.”

Mrs Coates took a salary of £421million, topped up with a £48million dividend payment from her 50 per cent stake in the business.

The Coates family are estimated to be worth around £6.8 billion, making Mrs Coates the UK’s 5th richest woman behind Marit and Kirsten Rausing, Charlene de Carvalho-Heineken and Kirsty Bertarelli. 

Mrs Coates started working in bookmaking as a teenager when she worked in shops owned by her father, the son of a miner who made his fortune in the sports stadium catering business. 

The mother of five children, including four girls adopted from the same family, saw that the future of the industry was online, and mortgaged the betting shops to build the Bet365 website.

She bought the domain name on eBay and launched the site in 2001, growing rapidly thanks to prolific advertising fronted by actor Ray Winston.

The company is now a global leader employing 5,100 out of headquarters in Stoke-on-Trent and Gibraltar. 

Bet365 did not respond to a MailOnline request for a comment. 

The bookie’s daughter from Stoke who hit the jackpot: How ultra-secretive workaholic mother-of-five Denise Coates, 53, became Britain’s best paid boss after mortgaging family business to set up Bet365 – and is using her £469MILLION salary to build a futuristic fortress

When bookmaker Denise Coates clicked on the eBay ‘buy’ button for the £25,000 domain name for her once Portakabin-based bookies, she may have wondered if it would ever pay off. 

Two decades later as the 53-year-old workaholic boss of Bet365 it has and she has just paid herself £469million -the biggest salary in UK history.

Her lightbulb moment in 2001 – that the future of gambling was online – took her from that Portakabin to almost unimaginable wealth and the brink of completing a futuristic fortress home in Cheshire.

The space-age home has almost become a reality after she spent £5.5million buying up hundreds of acres of farmland.

It was dreamt up with the world-renowned architecture firm Foster and Partners, usually best-known for skyscrapers, airports and commercial buildings.

The sprawling home is set in 52 acres of Cheshire parkland and will include an artificial lake, sunken tennis courts, as well as stables, ornamental gardens, workers’ cottages and a boathouse.

It is in keeping with the private company head, who rarely gives interviews on account of her ‘not enjoying the attention’.

Her extraordinary success is a far cry from her years as a teenager she learned the trade working in her father’s Stoke based Provincial Racing outlets but could see where the industry was heading.

She convinced him to use them to secure a £15m loan from RBS, which she poured into developing Bet365.

By 2006 it had become so successful she sold those branches to rivals Coral for £40million.

Bet365 boss Denise Coates, 53, increased her salary by 45 per cent, taking her total earnings since 2016 to £1.3 billion. Pictured, in 2012 Mrs Coates was awarded a CBE

Brother John, Denise and father Peter Coates of Bet365, which has handed out £607 million to managers this year alone

An artist’s impression of how the palatial home of Mrs Coates will look, complete with grass terrace near the roof

Designs for the planned house show an incredible palace of glass and steel in the making with work now well underway

The futuristic glass home is complete with a 7,000 square metre artificial lake, a boat house, a sunken tennis court, stables, walled gardens, a cycle path and a glass lake house on the water (pictured)

In December 2018 it was revealed that Ms Coates spent a staggering £5.5 million buying up hundreds of acres of farmland which surround her new space age home, snapping up 12 separate plots of land since 2014 

Concepts for the palatial property are found in the visualisation made by designers, which show a waterside paradise

The design is incredibly modern and can be seen on public planning application papers lodged with Cheshire East Council

Anyone for tennis? The incredible designs feature a full-sized tennis court and what appears to be a viewing shelter

The property will also feature a modern outdoor space with stone chippings and glass play area surrounded by trees

The incredible property is well underway and could be seen being built earlier this morning, already looking like its design

Her father’s faith in what was then a risky concept has never been forgotten by her.

In one interview she admitted: ‘I am hugely indebted to my father for always believing in me and to my brother John who runs the business alongside me.’

The success story nearly never happened after she first trained as an accountant, following study of econometrics at the University of Sheffield.

She hated it and was said to have ‘jumped’ at the chance to take over her father Peter’s shops Provincial Racing.

One of her colleagues Debbie Tatton told the BBC in 2019: ‘When Denise came, she wanted a closer relationship between the staff and the customers.

The payday means that, between April 2019 and March 2020, she earned the equivalent of £1.3 million per day

Denise Coates pictured with father Peter (left) and brother John (right) in a business publicity shot back in the early 2000s

‘We became a lot more professional, a lot more customer-focused.

‘A lot of younger people started coming in, as well as a lot more ladies.’ 

It was working in an office above one of the shops in Tunstall, Stoke, in the late 1990s that she had the idea for Bet365.

The chain was turned round into healthy profit under her stewardship and it was a car park near to one of the branches Bet365 was born.

Her brother John remembered it well: ‘She just kept saying: ‘This is what we’re going to do, this is what we’re going to do.

‘The internet was there and she just felt sports betting was the thing.’ 

Working from a Portakabin, Mrs Coates created the brand but at first did not succeed in the way she may have predicted. 

Mrs Coates pictured with her father Peter, who is also a director of her betting company and who ‘always believed in her’

One of the key decisions she made was to develop bespoke software, rather than using someone else’s for the business.

In the portable cabin in one of the shop car parks between Trentham and Longton the software development team began work. 

By December 2000 it had grown so big they moved to a base in Festival Park. 

It is now a global leader employing 5,100 out of headquarters in Stoke-on-Trent and Gibraltar. 

She told the Stoke Sentinel: ‘In the early years, the business was losing a lot of money and we were all concerned about having the resources to bring us through to profitability.

‘As part of this, we did a tour of the private equity and venture capitalist industry to try and bring in outside investment.

‘At the time, the dot com bubble had burst and a loss-making internet company wasn’t looking the best investment!

‘We had to mortgage the betting shops and sell other family assets to lend money to the business to take it through to profitability. As such we kept the business fully in our hands.’

In 2012 Mrs Coates was appointed CBE for services to the community and business awarded by Prince Charles.

The Coates family are now estimated to be worth around £6.8 billion, and Mrs Coates the UK’s 5th richest woman behind Marit and Kirsten Rausing, Charlene de Carvalho-Heineken and Kirsty Bertarelli.

Bet363 employs around 3,000 people and Miss Coates’ subordinates include her own husband, Richard Smith, who serves as group property director.

The pair met at Sheffield University, where she earned her first class degree in econometrics in the 1980s.

They adopted four girls from the same family a few years ago and they also have a child of their own, but they try to keep their home life well away from the limelight.

In an interview in 2013 she said: ‘I am very pleased with the decision Richard and I made to adopt the girls.

‘It has been hugely rewarding for both of us and has given us a great deal of pleasure.’

Yesterday it emerged she had increased her salary by 45 per cent, taking her total earnings since 2016 to £1.3 billion.

It is a pay packet more than all of the salaries of the chief executives of Britain’s 100 largest listed companies put together. 

Her family are also said to use a helicopter, while Mrs Coates herself drives an Aston Martin DB9 sports car with customised licence plates. 

In an interview in 2012 it was said that she kept such a low profile she could still stroll around Stoke largely unnoticed.

She told the Guardian: ‘I really don’t enjoy the attention. The public side does not come naturally to me.

‘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.

‘You start a 24/7 business and you work 24/7. 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.’ 

And the result of that hard work – her almost unfathomable fortune – has also gone to good causes, with Bet365 donating some £100million to charities, including Oxfam, CAFOD, the Douglas Macmillan Hospice, as well relief programmes to people affected by the Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.

The impact of the coronavirus pandemic has been feared to have contributed to Britain’s gambling problems.  

In 2019/20 Bet365 pledged £868,000 to GambleAware, which collects donations for treatment and research, which is expected to rise to close to around £14million this year.

But regardless of differing opinions on the industry and its moral rights or wrongs, there can be little doubt how Mrs Coates’ business gamble has turned out. 

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