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Britain’s richest individuals: The battle between entrepreneurs and heirs

10 min read

11 May 2016

More than half of the wealth among the top 100 richest people in the UK is gained through inheritance or climbing the corporate ladder, analysis of the Sunday Times Rich List reveals – but what does this mean for our nation of entrepreneurs?

The latest round-up of 1,000 wealthiest people in the UK shows the UK plays host to 120 billionaires worth a total of £343.9bn.

But our analysis of the top 100 shows just one third have gained their riches through the struggles of starting a small business while more than half have made a living from inheritance or climbing the corporate ladder.

Our research shows that of the top 100; 49 inherited their wealth, 34 are entrepreneurs, eight happen to have climbed the corporate ladder, while nine have started their own successful business in a similar field after leaving a high-powered job.

What a difference a decade makes

Top of the list are the Reuben brothers. The property and metal trading tycoons are self-made billionaires having moved from Mumbai to London in the 1950s and made their fortune investing in Russian metals market during the fall of the Soviet Union in the 1990s.

They can technically be classed as entrepreneurs, although they have not created a unique product or different business, as most of their money is made from trading and property.

The makeup of the list has barely changed in the past decade. In 2006 the Reuben brothers were the eighth richest in the UK with steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal at number one. His wealth has fallen from £14.8bn to £7bn in a decade – he is now the eleventh richest in the UK.

The main difference has been that those at the top, particularly with inherited wealth, have seen their value grow.

The list does slightly reflect the changes in dominant industries. Retailer Philip Green was the fifth richest in 2006 at £4.9bn, he is now the 29th richest, worth £3.2bn.

You also now need to be richer to get a mention – in 2006 you needed £60m to get into the rich list, now you need £103m.

The top eight territories where you can find the ultra-rich population

Inherited wealth

Of the top ten, six have inherited their wealth, such as the Hinduja Brothers. Now worth £13bn and the second richest in the UK, their business, which invests in industries such as property, oil and healthcare, started as part of a family empire in 1914.

Others such as Charlene de Carvalho-Heineken and Michel De Carvalho, the seventh richest in the UK, have inherited money from the Heineken beer brand.

Even those who can be classed as entrepreneurial in the top ten are not actually offering a product or service but have made money from clever investment or business strategy. For example, Arsenal shareholder Alisher Usmanov is the tenth richest in the UK, worth £7.5bn, having made is money through mining.

Continue reading on the next page for a breakdown of the top ten richest individuals in the UK and what got them there, as well as a look at “true entrepreneurs”.


Image: Shutterstock

The top ten richest in the UK

(1) David and Simon Reuben – £13.1bn
Sector: Property/Metals
Wealth source: Entrepreneur

(2) Sri and Gopi Hinduja – £13bn
Sector: Industry/finance
Wealth source: Inheritance (family business)

(3) Len Blavatnik – £11.59bn
Sector: Investment and music
Wealth source: Entrepreneur

(4) Glen and George Weston – £11bn
Sector: Retailing
Wealth source: Inheritance (family business)

(5) Ernesto and Kirsty Bertarelli – £9.78bn
Sector: Pharmaceuticals
Wealth source: Inheritance (family business)

(6) The Duke of Westminster – £9.35bn
Sector: Property
Wealth source: Inheritance

(7) Charlene De Carvalho-Heineken and Michel De Carvalho – £9.15bn
Sector: Inheritance, brewery and banking
Wealth source: Inheritance

(8) Kristen and Jorn Rausing – £8.7bn
Sector: Inheritance and investing
Wealth source: Inheritance

(9) Hans Rausing – £8.7bn
Sector: Packaging
Wealth source: Inheritance

(10) Alisher Usmanov – £7.58bn
Sector: Mining
Wealth source: Entrepreneur

The lavish first class suites that airlines have to offer

The true entrepreneurs

You have to wait until number 17 to find an entrepreneur in its purest sense, James Dyson. The inventor spent 15 years getting his now infamous dual cyclone vacuum cleaner to market and is worth £5bn.

Just below him is Virgin founder Richard Branson, with £4.52bn of wealth. In 2006, Branson was the ninth richest in the UK, valued at £3bn. His business interests have moved since those days from transport and phones to the more lucrative technology and airlines.

Entrepreneurs begin to feature more prominently down the list. At number 30, Laurence and Francois Graff, worth £3.2bn, have built a successful diamond business while a few places below at 34 is Tom Morris who started discount store Home Bargains in Liverpool in 1976.

There are also inspirational examples of businesses started at home, such as investing platform Hargreaves Lansdown, which was launched in Peter Hargreaves front bedroom. Its co-founder Peter Hargreaves is now the 50th richest person in the UK at £2.15bn.

At position 66 you will find Douglas and Mary Perkins who turned a small optician into Specsavers, which allowed them to become worth £1.55bn.

Continue onto the final page, where we’ll look at those who climbed the corporate ladder, self-made women and the ten wealthiest youngsters in the UK.

Image: Shutterstock

Corporate climbers

Some names in the list have made their money by climbing to the top of a big firm or launching a business after a successful career in a similar industry.

For example, John Grayken, who founded private equity firm Lone Star, is a new entrant at number 20 – he’s worth £4.4bn, but he is an ex-Morgan Stanley banker.

Or at number 54, former journalist Michael Moritz built his wealth to £1.95bn after working his way up to partner at venture capital firm Sequoia Capital, which has backed big tech firms such as Google and Apple.

All the self-made ladies

If you are looking for some female inspiration, you have to go further down the list to position 24 and Denise Coates. She is the richest self-made woman in the UK at £3.76bn, having turned her family’s tiny betting shop business into the online gambling giant now known as Bet365.

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The young ones

Technology offers plenty of opportunities for young people to start a business these days. For example, Pete Cashmore, is the wealthiest self-made millionaire aged under 30 on the list. He launched social media news website Mashable from his bedroom at the age of 19 – now aged 30 he is worth £170m.

But it is still tough to get to the top if you are young, Cashmore is the fourth richest under 30 but overall the list is dominated by sportsmen, musicians and film stars.

The top four richest people under 30 have inherited wealth on their side. The richest under 30 is Tom Persson, worth £672m, he has his own business interests such as photography, but is heir to the H&M fashion chain.

The proud gypsy who turned prejudice into a business empire in excess of £200m

The top ten wealthiest youngsters

(1) Tom Persson – £672m
Sector: Fashion
Source of wealth: Inheritance

(2) Fawn and India Rose James – £482m
Sector: Property
Source of wealth: Inheritance

(3) Thomas Mackie and family – £380m
Sector: Electrical goods
Source of wealth: Inheritance

(4) Tim and Pollyanna Gredley and family – £194m
Sector: Property and horseracing
Source of wealth: Inheritance

(5) Pete Cashmore – £170m
Sector: Internet
Source of wealth: Entrepreneur

(6) Wayne and Coleen Rooney – £96m
Sector: Football
Source of wealth: n/a

(7) Adele – £85m
Sector: Music
Source of wealth: n/a

(8) Daniel Radcliffe – £74m
Sector: Acting
Source of wealth: n/a

(9) Chris Phillips – £70m
Sector: Internet and property
Source of wealth: Entrepreneur

(10) Robert Pattinson – £65m
Sector: Acting
Source of wealth: n/a

Make sure you check out our Business Class section for the glamorous side of entrepreneurship.

Chris Conway is the MD of Accounts and Legal. 

Image: Shutterstock