Bet365 chief executive Denise Coates paid herself £469 million in the year ending March 29. It represents one of the largest pay packets in UK corporate history. Coates, the founder and majority shareholder of the Stoke-on-Trent-based company, earned a salary of £421 million and £48 million in dividends.
The company suffered a decline in revenue for the year, but it said her pay packet was “appropriate and fair”. Coates earned £48,000 per hour during the 12-month period, and the bumper payout brings her total pay to nearly £1.3 billion since 2016.
The Bet365 boss is the UK’s largest taxpayer and also gives significant amounts of her wealth to charity, but the pay she received was criticised. Campaign group the High Pay Centre said it was “appallingly inefficient for single individuals to hoard wealth in this way”.
“Of course rich people pay more tax – they have grossly disproportionate incomes,” said director Luke Hildyard. “What’s relevant is how much money they have after tax and in her case it’s more than anyone can spend in multiple lifetimes. It’s appallingly inefficient for single individuals to hoard wealth in this way when fairer systems of taxation could mean the wealth is instead used to support better public services or raise living standards for low- and middle-income earners.”
News reports suggest that the £2.9 billion sale of William Hill to US casino giant Caesars Entertainment “hangs in the balance”. The takeover was set to be completed in early April following shareholder approval, but two American hedge funds objected to the board’s decision to recommend investors vote to approve the offer.
GWM Asset Management and HBK Capital Management, which between them own around 11% of William Hill, wrote to the board claiming that shareholders were not provided with enough information before voting. GWM could be gearing up to contest the acquisition, as it wrote that the board “failed to disclose potentially material information” regarding Caesars’ ability to end its joint venture with William Hill in the United States if another candidate for the deal had been present.
There were other bidders interested in buying William Hill. However, it has a joint venture with Caesars in the US, and Caesars threatened to end it if William Hill accepted a rival offer. William Hill’s board said it was therefore compelled to recommend the Caesars takeover, thus preventing shareholders from benefiting from a bidding war. GWM claims shareholders may have voted differently if they knew material information about the likelihood of Caesars actually being able to end the joint venture.
A decision about whether the deal should be finalised was delayed until next week. The bookmaker said a judgment “is awaited” on whether the takeover should be completed following a court hearing. A judge will typically make a decision to approve a scheme of arrangement – a procedure to complete a takeover of a publicly listed company – on the day of the court hearing.
Ladbrokes owner Entain is one of several firms to be knocked back in a bid for the wagering and media division of Australian gambling heavyweight Tabcorp. In February, the company – which also owns Coral, Bwin and Sportingbet – said it was in “early stage” discussions with Tabcorp.
However, Tabcorp this week made an announcement to the Australian Stock Exchange to say its wagering and media business is worth AU$3 billion (£1.66 billion) and that takeover proposals it received fell short of expectations.
Despite that setback, Entain has succeeded in its takeover bid for Swedish-owned, Baltic-facing operator Enlabs. It continues to gain momentum since rebuffing a takeover offer from MGM Holdings – its partner in the BetMGM joint venture in the US – earlier this year.
JP Morgan Cazenove took a look at the online gaming sector this week, and decided to upgrade Entain from “overweight” to “neutral”. It said the firm’s non-US assets now trade at a discount to 888 and a substantial discount to Paddy Power and Betfair owner Flutter Entertainment. 888 was downgraded from “neutral” to “overweight” after the share price reached its target price following a strong recent performance.