How a Gamble Of £15m Loan Became a Multi-Billion-Pound Fortune?
There is every chance that you might never have heard of Denise Coates. But when it comes to talking about self-made successful women she comes right there on top. Many of us are familiar with Bet365.com’s television ads, but hidden behind this empire is an entrepreneur who build it from a scratch. Denise Coates is the woman behind the world’s biggest online betting firm.
No Paparazzi please:
She is the kind of woman who prefers to stay away from press and public attention. She rarely gives interviews in person, seldom talks about anything apart from her work, reveals nothing personal, not even her age. She is someone whom you wouldn’t recognize even if she just brushed across you. The only thing that might hint at her extravagant fortune is her personalised Aston Martin.
Irrespective of your views on gambling, it is hard to imagine a woman making such a dent in this male-dominated field. This is where understanding Denise Coates becomes important. How is it that she made it to the top of gambling empire? By 2014 her highly profitable Bet365 online bookmaking empire was handling stakes of more than £20bn of bets a year from seven million customers in 200 countries.
The Fortunate Few:
Ms Coates is now one of the UK’s wealthiest businesswomen. Her personal fortune is estimated at $2.5 billion (£1.65 billion) on Forbes magazine’s 28th annual rich list. But it wasn’t this rosy always. Initially it was a product which incurred a debt of £15m.
Ms Coates’s start in the bookmaking industry was pretty unremarkable. Even when still in school she used to work in the cashiers’ department of her father’s betting shops. She used to mark-up bets, and later also got involved in accounts. Although outside the confines of the cashier’s booth the bookmaking industry might have seemed to be a very male dominant, but Coates was blind to that and the trade seems to have appealed to her mathematical mind.
Woman on top?
When asked -What it means to be a woman at the top of the bookmaking industry? The Guardian reported her as saying, “I never gave it a second thought. It didn’t cross my mind. I probably had a few [meetings] at first where I had to put somebody right – but I knew my business, so it wasn’t a problem … I just wanted to get on with making my business successful. I’ve never dwelled on the fact, or thought about the fact, that I was a woman.”
She studied Econometrics in the University. Unclear about her next move, she trained as an accountant within the family firm. It was a useful move, though she found the work “dry” and she hated it. She took over what she remembers as “a small chain of pretty rubbish betting shops” when given the opportunity by her father. She took it up as a challenge. She made it profitable and soon Coates acquired a neighbouring chain, thus doubling the size of the business in a stroke.
But turning around the fortunes of the shops was not enough for her. During the period when she was working from an office above one of her father’s bookies, Coates started to notice the emerging popularity of gambling websites. She was convinced this is where the future was.
She kept going with grit and determination. While others too, such as Coral and William Hill, were exploring what the internet had to offer, no one dared to leap into these uncharted waters with the conviction of Coates.
From Penny to Mortgage
Coates failed to raise a penny from venture capitalists in London. She then turned to her father, other family members and Royal Bank of Scotland as a last resort to secure the financial backing she needed. The family borrowed £15 million from RBS, pledging the loans against their betting shop estate.
Coates herself admitted to the Guardian “We mortgaged the betting shops and put it all into online. We knew the industry required big start-up costs but … we gambled everything on it. We were the ultimate gamblers if you like.”
What ends well… is well a gold mine of a fortune
It has turned out to be a bet that has paid off spectacularly and beyond what even the Coates’ would have imagined. What is rather compelling is how Ms Coates coupled the age-old industry of gaming with cutting-edge technology of present to create a goldmine. And what a success it has been – in 2014 Bet365 made a £150 million profit.
More than half of the Bet365 goldmine is owned by Ms Coates. She has the stake of 50.01%. The 2013 reports state that she received pay and bonuses of £5.4 million, as well as her share of £15 million in dividends. After the pay-outs, the company still had £430 million in cash reserves. It’s also been great for Stoke-on-Trent as Bet365 employs 2,500 employees nearly all of which are local.
Since, then it has only grown with her personal fortune rising from $1.6 billion in 2014 to $3.8 billion as of March 2017. The company had $2 billion in revenues and facilitated $45 billion in bets in the year through March 2016. Having bought the domain Bet365.com in 2000 and launched the website in 2001, Denise Coates had just within a decade with sheer grit, determination and conviction turned it into a multi-billion-dollar company.
An idol for women?
She is as of March 2017, according to Forbes – the 522nd richest person in the world, 14th richest in UK and 52nd richest person in the Tech sector and has been ranked amongst the 5 richest women in the Tech industry.
She likes to keep her private life private and likes being away from social attention but when it comes to work her focus is laser sharp. The company’s rapid growth and domination shows the acute business mind that she has.
In a world today where celebrities and glamour are popularised and presented as idols, the story of Denise Coates comes as a very timely and relatable opportunity for women to associate with all over the world. She represents the quintessential rags to riches story but helpfully without all the celeb and glamour fad rubbed all over it.