Britain boasts an impressive number of billionaires relative to the nation’s size. For the very first time, this year, the number of billionaires living the UK has reached over 100 according to the 2014 Sunday Times rich list. Real estate, banking and retail are among the biggest areas of success. Such immense wealth is also often the result of well-timed property purchases by ancestors, or long-since established family businesses pursued over many generations and still in full swing today.
Here, we’re profiling the top ten richest British billionaires as identified by Bloomberg and Forbes.
Although this list includes the wealthiest British people, most of the billionaires here are English, with not a single Welsh or Northern Irish person featuring. Most of these billionaires are based in Britain, although some have used their wealth to relocate to sunnier shores.
10. Bruno Schroder and family – $4.5 billion
Bruno Schroder is the fourth generation in his banking family to take control of their financial-services company, Schroders. He is a non-executive director as well as a member of the nominations committee. The company’s shares were at an all-time high at the start of 2014, having increased by over a third since the previous year. He shares his fortune with his sister Charmaine. Schroder holds a significant amount of land in Scotland where he lives, and has given generously to the island of Islay, helping restore an old whiskey distillery. He also sponsors the local Highland games, and funds the Islay lifeboat which has saved at least 5 lives since its reconstruction.
9. Joe Lewis – $4.7 billion
Based in the Bahamas, Joe Lewis often works from aboard his yacht. Although he is British, Lewis has made his fortune in the US, building a medical city in Lake Nona, near Orlando. It is one of the fastest-growing communities in the USA, anchored by four large medical institutions. The development covers 7000 acres and sells 45 houses every month. It is considered one of eight ‘Smart+Connected’ cities of the 21st century.
Lewis also holds shares in more than 200 companies through his Tavistock Group. For example, in the football team Tottenham Hotspur (Spurs), and in Mitchell’s & Butlers plc, the UK’s largest pub operator. He has an art collection, valued at around $1 billion that includes works by Picasso, Soutine, Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon.
8. Laurence Graff and family – $4.8 billion
Things have looked up for Laurence Graff since he left school at the age of 14 to work as a jeweler’s apprentice. When he reached the age of 75 last year, the Queen of England awarded him the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE), an honor that is two rungs down from a knighthood. Graff is part of the elite of the diamond jewellery market. His clients have included Elizabeth Taylor, the Sultan of Brunei, Donald Trump, Oprah Winfrey, Larry Ellison and more. Graff’s assets include a polished diamond trading venture in Switzerland, a stake in a South African diamond wholesaler and real estate in London’s Mayfair district.
His son Francois is the CEO of Graff Diamonds International, and Graff himself is chairman. Graff also owns a vineyard and winery in the Napa Valley of South Africa, as well an extensive modern and contemporary art collection. Graff live a billionaires lifestyle: he lives between numerous countries, owns a yacht, has his own Roy Lichtenstein painting, and collects vintage cars.
7. Michael Ashley – $4.8 billion
English billionaire Michael Ashley has made his fortune as a retail entrepreneur in the sporting goods market. He started his sports-clothing chain at a young age, after leaving school in 1982. He was the company’s sole owner up until a 2007 IPO. He decided to sell a chunk of his company, personally pocketing $1.8 billion as a result. He is the owner of football club Newcastle United, having paid around £135 million to buy the club. He often sits in the stands alongside fans during matches. Since October of 2014 Ashley also holds a 8.92% stake in the Scottish football club Rangers F.C.
6. Philip and Cristina Green – $4.9 billion
Philip Green is a retail tycoon who bought his first London store at the age 27, where he sold discounted designer brands. In 2000, he bought British Home Stores and succeed at turning the chain around. He went on to buy the Arcadia retail group which owns Topshop, Topman, Burton, Dorothy Perkins and Miss Selfridge. He sold the Topshop empire to Leonard Green & Partners for $763 million, bringing his fashion chain to an estimated value of $3 billion. He holds his money offshore with the investment vehicle Taveta that he shares with his wife Cristina. Green enjoys the billionaire lifestyle, known for commuting between Monaco and London in a private jet and for having lavish parties. He went so far as to pay Andrea Bocelli and Beyonce to play at his son Brandon’s three-day bar mitzvah celebration in 2005.
5. Richard Branson – $4.9 billion
English business magnate and investor Richard Branson is the well-known founder of Virgin Group, which encapsulates over 400 companies. Aged sixteen, Branson’s entrepreneurial spirit was sparked when he set up the magazine Student. He went on to start up a mail-order record business in 1970, proceeding to open the Virgin Records stores two years later. The branded (renamed Virgin Megastores) grew rapidly during the 1980s, allowing him to set up Virgin Atlantic and expand the Virgin Records music label. Having sold Virgin Records and Virgin Media to keep other ventures afloat, in 2004 Branson announced his new space tourism company named Virgin Galactic, designed to take paying passengers into suborbital space. Virgin Galactic recently made its 3rd trip.
4. Charles Gerald John Cadogan and family – $7.1 billion
Charles Gerald John Cadogan is currently at the head of the real estate company Cadogan Group that owns over 90 acres of prime London property at the heart of the city. Charles is an eighth-generation descendant of the first Earl Cadogan. The estate has belonged to his family since 1717 and covers much of the Chelsea area. The properties have a market value of around $7 billion. Charles was the president of the Freemasons in England and Wales from 1999 to 2004, and he chaired Roman Abramovich‘s Chelsea soccer club during the 1980s.
3. David and Simon Reuben – $10.3 billion
David and Simon Reuben were born to a prosperous Baghdadi Jewish family in Mumbai in the 1940s, a family who had been living in British India since the mid-1800s and emigrated to Britain in the early 1950s. The Reuben Brothers business is mainly involved in real estate, private equity, and venture capitalism. It was set up as a family company, designed for holding assets in the Russian metals market as a result of which substantial amounts of money were made. At one point, it was even the world’s largest aluminium company. However in 2000 they sold all their Russian assets and focused their business activities in the UK property market, mainly. Nearly half their fortune is in liquid assets such as cash and bonds.
2. Hinduja Brothers – $12.8 billion
The 4 Hinduja brothers moved to London (from Iran, following the outbreak of the Islamic Revolution) in 1979 to develop the Hinduja Group export business set up by their ancestors in Mumbai in 1914.
Today the Group is a global conglomerate. Prakash manages the group’s finances in Geneva, Switzerland, while younger brother Ashok, oversees the Indian interests; Srichand and Gopichand are the chairmen of the company. The Hinduja Group has become one of the largest diversified groups in the world, employing more than 70,000 people all around the world.
Encouraged by India’s new business-friendly government, they have declared that they are ready to invest as much as $10 billion in reviving stalled infrastructure and power projects in India.
1. Gerald Grosvenor – $13.6 billion
Gerald Grosvenor is the richest man in the UK. The landowner, business man and former British Army officer is the head of real estate firm Grosvenor Group that had assets under management of $19.8 billion in 2013. Grosvenor has thrived off ownership of lands owned by his family since 1677, including 300 acres in London’s Belgravia and Mayfair areas and property abroad in Spain, Ireland, Asia and the Americas. He is also the owner of the site of the U.S. Embassy’s site in London on Grosvenor Square. Grosvenor has close ties with the royal family.