Founder and joint CEO, Bet365
It’s fitting that Denise Coates appears at the top of the very first Hot 50 – even if she only owes that place to the alphabet. Coates has revolutionised the sports betting industry and, more generally, the online gaming industry. Bet365 did not invent in-play betting but it did it better than anyone had done before. Coates’ devotion to the company she founded is unstinting. She cares passionately about the business and for her 1,500 staff in Stoke-on-Trent. Bet365 is the region’s largest employer and, taken together with its majority shareholding of Premier League football club Stoke City, it’s had a major affect on an area previously known only for its pottery industry. The Queen deemed these efforts worthy of a CBE in the recent new year’s honours list. According to a colleague, Coates’ greatest strength is a complete focus on making the customer experience better. However, her strategic vision, investment nous and informal management style have also been praised. Ultimately, the proof is in the results. With reported revenues in excess of £0.4bn and profit exceeding £100m she is clearly doing something right.
Incoming CEO, Betfair
Breon Corcoran would be worth his place in the Hot 50 solely on the position he has yet to assume. He takes over Betfair at a crucial time for the betting exchange. It faces a number of legal challenges throughout the world and its software is up against the likes of Bet365 and William Hill Online, which have made huge strides in recent years. However, Corcoran’s position in the Hot 50 is not solely down to his new job. His track record as the COO of Paddy Power (he is on between-jobs gardening leave) suggests he’s up to the challenge that awaits at Betfair. While it would be foolish to credit him with all of Paddy Power’s recent success (some of his former colleagues appear elsewhere in the Hot 50), he has been hugely influential. Crucially, he has been in charge of the Irish bookmaker’s massively successful website. He now needs to recreate that success with Betfair.
Hans Cornehl was CEO of Germany’s Tipp24 until taking over as chairman in July 2011. As such, he has been responsible for the rise and rise of a company that has increased revenues 205 per cent during the last five years. Cornehl has a doctorate in chemistry but he performed something approaching a miracle in 2009 when the German State Treaty forced him to exit his home market. Revenues from Germany slumped from 87 per cent of total revenues to just two per cent, but that total nearly doubled as the company re-focused on Italy, Spain and the UK. Cornehl now faces the prospect of returning to his home market after declaring the Schleswig-Holstein legislation satisfactory. There have been few as eloquent as Cornehl when voicing frustration with governmental protectionism: “This has finally buried the hypocritical fiction of a supposed lottery addiction as a means of excluding private providers.”
Founder and CEO, Microgame
Fabrizio D’Aloia has really blazed a trail in Italy. Microgame’s product is somewhat alien to other online gaming providers but it has been a remarkable success in Italy, where only PokerStars has started to challenge its hegemony. D’Aloia’s genius was in producing a product that is tailored perfectly to its home market. Microgame basically provides an online gaming solution to a series of internet cafes throughout Italy. This has been particularly successful in the poorer south, where fewer people have internet access at home. D’Aloia’s challenge will be to maintain market leadership as the market matures. It will be fascinating to watch him export his product to overseas. Many industry eyes are focused on Spain and D’Aloia hopes the cultural similarities between the two countries will see Microgame repeat its success there.
A place in the Hot 50 could be seen as something of a lifetime achievement award for the former CEO of Betsson, Cherry and Net Entertainment, but as chairman of Betsson and board member of Net Ent, he continues to have a massive influence on two of Sweden’s most dynamic companies. Betsson’s success has been driven by Lindwall’s focus, strategic vision and attention to detail and costs. He founded Net Ent then spun it out of the Betsson/Cherry empire. All have blossomed. Lindwall has overseen a gradual refocus on B2B at Betsson as the company skilfully adapts to changing market conditions. All of which would be enough for inclusion but it’s in the results where Betsson excels. For the first nine months of 2011, net profit rose 51 per cent. Most chairmen can only dream of such returns.
It has been claimed that SBOBET is the largest sportsbook in the world. Turnover for the Philippines-based company is estimated at an extraordinary $65bn. It is all Asian Handicap football betting across Asia. What Bill Mummery has done is taken the Asian behemoth and given it a European flavour. Mummery was the founder of betinternet.com before becoming the head of e-gaming at the Isle of Man government, from whom he got a licence when he took over at SBOBET in 2008. Mummery has given the business extra legitimacy in Europe with its sponsorship of English football club West Ham United, and a huge amount of work for charity that puts to shame many lesser CSR programmes.
Ian Penrose’s spell in charge of Sportech is a work in progress but his achievement in taking a company that was on the brink of bankruptcy to a company that is on the brink of world domination is outstanding. Sportech is now the world’s largest parimutuel betting supplier. Penrose took a dying UK institution, The Football Pools, and internationalised it. He has achieved all this while retaining a down-to-earth style that makes friends of employees and business partners alike. Penrose has partnered cleverly, and Sportech is wellplaced to take advantage of legislative progress in huge markets such as India and the US. It has also made inroads in Australia and stabilised the decline in the UK. Penrose is on the verge of some very big things indeed.
The jury is still out on the merger of bwin and PartyGaming, but joint chief executive Jim Ryan remains the man most likely to make a success of it. There is something about Ryan’s demeanour that instils confidence. Investors seem to love him despite an underwhelming financial performance since the big merger. He speaks their language when talking about exceeding synergy targets and the like, but he is also very clear-sighted when discussing strategy. It is in B2B where this is most evident. The company won the remit to run Danske Spil’s e-gaming operations and will no doubt be a force in re-regulated Denmark. It also partnered smartly with PMU in France, giving it an edge over almost all of the competition. But it is the MGM/Boyd deal in the US which most intrigues. Ryan was a key driver in this and it is a real reason for excitement at a company that has had few since its splashy merger.
Isai Scheinberg should not really be in the superstar CEO category, having handed the reins to Gabi Campos in 2010, but Scheinberg remains involved in every part of the business. There are a few things that help PokerStars stand out from the crowd, two of which are Scheinberg’s passion for poker and his brilliant mind. He’s created a product head and shoulders above its rivals and he continues to create the best customer experience that he can. His uncompromising stance with the US Department of Justice can only be admired even if it is yet to produce results. One hopes that it does because online poker needs advocates like Isai Scheinberg – a true industry legend.
32Red chief executive Ed Ware is a real stormtrooper for his company. He has cast himself in the role of David taking on the Goliaths of Playtech and William Hill. And, most importantly, he won. It would have been easier to ignore William Hill’s 32Vegas brand (bequeathed to it by its Playtech JV William Hill Online) and hope it would not take business away. But Ware chased it through the courts and his victory is one for small businesses the world over. He’s not just a fighter, though. Despite the expensive court battle, 32Red is growing faster than the industry average. Its revenues were up 42 per cent after H1 2011. Casino games are in the ascendancy and Ware is leading the charge.