The Coates family have been named in the top 20 of this year's Sunday Times Rich List
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It has been an extraordinary life and career for miner's son Peter Coates, the youngest of 14 children and brought up by his sister in Goldenhill after his mother died when he was two.
And it has been at least equally extraordinary for his children, Denise and John, who, as joint chief-executives, have transformed the betting company he set up to become one of the largest in the world after embracing the online revolution. The success of the company, based in Etruria, means that the family has been named 17th in this weekend's Sunday Times Rich List with a mind-blowing net worth of £8.637bn, up £189m in 12 months.
They employ 5,211 people, as well as another 293 at Stoke City, where Coates Sr has been on the board since 1985, when he made a £50,000 investment. He was appointed chairman in 1986, taking over from Sandy Clubb, and remained a director while an Icelandic consortium took control from 1999 until the Coates family resumed power in 2006. Peter and John are now joint chairmen.
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Peter had been a keen footballer himself but hung up his boots at the age of 23 and concentrated efforts on Stadia Catering, which provided food and drink at football clubs. Coates grew the business to the point where most football grounds were supplied by his business — later renamed Lindley Catering Investments.
In 1969 when, as head of the fledgling Stadia Catering, he won the contract for the Victoria Ground. He opened three bookmaking shops. Provincial Racing, in 1974, He was involved with the consortium which won the Signal Radio franchise in 1983 when the radio station was launched. He even had a majority shareholding in a Glasgow stationery distribution company and a publishing company, Russia Express.
It was during that time at the turn of the century that Denise took out a £15m loan to turn Provincial Racing into bet365, operating from a portable cabin in a Stoke-on-Trent car park in 2000. They saw the future online.
John Coates told the Sentinel in 2002: “Any business venture is a gamble and you have to weigh up whether the loss of your investment offsets the potential gain. My father brought the experience of having set up Signal Radio to the business model. He recognised that there would be a huge investment required to set up the infrastructure and technology. But once you have cleared that hurdle the business is very profitable.”
Denise later added in a rare interview: "I was convinced early on that gambling would work well on the internet. It is private, accessible and allows you to present a huge range of betting opportunities to customers.
"For the first few years of the business, we still had betting shops, but, for me, although I had managed to build them into a really strong regional chain, we were always going to be significantly smaller than the national chains.
"The internet gave us the opportunity to enter a new and international market where we had the possibility of being the best."
She added: "I first came up with the idea when I was working in an office above one of our betting shops in Tunstall in the late 1990s.
"One of the first key decisions was deciding to develop our own software rather than licensing a product.
"This meant we had to put a software development team together and that did indeed take shape in a portable building on a car park near one of our shops between Trentham and Longton.
"Soon we started to outgrow this and it was then we made our first move on to Festival Park in December 2000."
Denise learned her trade in Provincial Racing, first working as a cashier and then studying econometrics at the University of Sheffield. The loan from RBS was secured against the chain of betting shops.
Peter Coates told the Sentinel in 2003: "My big interest now is bet365 (formerly Provincial Racing) and this is now where I work full-time as chairman. We have 50 betting shops around the country, while my son and daughter persuaded me to develop the internet side about two-and-a-half years ago. It is true to say we are now one of the world’s leading sports bookmakers operating in 120 countries and employing 600 people. That is good for the local economy and I would imagine we are the fastest-growing company in the area."
By 2005, later the new venture was so successful that that the high street shops was sold to Coral for £40m and bet365 went completely online.
Denise said at the time: "The business has been successful but the cash betting industry is mature, while the internet and telephone side has grown so big so quickly that 99 per cent of our time had been spent trying to keep up with the pace of development."
Now she is reported to have the highest salary in the country, despite a £170m pay cut, taking home £249.6m in 2020/21 plus a further £58.9m dividends from the company. The Coateses also top the Sunday Times list of UK taxpayers with a tax liability of £481.7m - almost 40 per cent more than anyone else.
Famously shunning publicity, Denise lives with her husband, Richard, vice-chairman at Stoke City who runs the property side of the business, in a farmhouse in Cheshire.
They remain a family business - Denise and John remain joint-chief executives - and are proud of their roots in the Potteries.
"I am a local person and it is important to me that the area is as successful as it can be," she said.
"It’s great to show that what is essentially a technology firm can be successful in this area. The area has its fair share of bad press, but it is home to a lot of talented, hard-working people."