Denise Coates, founder of Bet365, paid herself GBP 265m last year.  Good for her, I say. But accolades were few and far between as the news broke. The Guardian called it “obscene” and in the same article quoted Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat Party Leader, who said Coates’ “eye-watering pay package” was “irresponsible and excessive”.

“In any circumstance it is hard to justify, but more so given the money comes from people struggling with compulsive gambling,” Cable said. “This is an industry body needing tighter regulation. We have started with high-stake gaming machines. We now need to move into online gambling and curbing the advertising around it.”

The Daily Mirror, quoting Luke Hildyard from think tank the High Pay Centre, said: “Why does a billionaire need to take such an obscene amount of money out of their company?”  To which the answer is because it is their company and their money.

It seems that you cannot win in today’s UK. Bet365 employs around 4,000 people, mainly in Stoke on Trent. Jeremy Clarkson in The Sun points out that after paying all her taxes, which he estimates at £200m, enough to build eight secondary schools, Ms Coates also gave over £100m to charity.

What everyone seems to forget is that the money paid was her money and not the shareholders of a quoted company on the London Stock Exchange.  As an investor I get cross when I see that the CEO of a company I have invested in has trousered £50m and has not had to risk his own money.  

Bet365 is a family firm. The Coates family has worked hard and has risked its own money to set this business up.  In the first few years they invested huge sums and had to take significant losses before the turnaround came.

If, as a country, the UK wants enterprising people to stay and pay their taxes, then at least let us offer some praise when they do so.  The Sun praised Chelsea football star Kanté for signing a £15m a year contract that would see him pay more tax than Amazon and Starbucks combined.  He snubbed schemes to put his money through offshore firms.

There is a difference of course in the comparison between Denise Coates and Kanté.  The former is in the gambling business, which immediately seems to taint all logic.  

by Warwick Bartlett