Bumper year for Britain’s ultra wealthy

BRITAIN’S ultra-wealthy have increased their collective wealth by 18 per cent on last year in a bumper year for City billionaires, according to this year’s Sunday Times Rich List.

The top 1,000 multimillionaires have increased their pot by more than £60.2bn. Their total assets are now worth an astounding £395.8bn, just shy of the all-time pre-recession high of £413bn, set in 2008.

The boom could be used by the government’s political opponents, as it implements austerity measures to get Britain’s battered finances back into shape – but others would argue that increased wealth among the elite is bound to boost spending, jobs and the tax take.

The number of sterling billionaires jumped from 53 to 73. The boom has meant this year’s bottom line for the top 1,000 is a £70m fortune, an increase of £7m on last year.

Britain’s richest man is once again Lakshmi Mittal, the Indian steel magnate, despite his fortune having dropped by £5bn since last year.

The man who is putting his name to the ArcelorMittal Orbit, the 1,500 ton steel tower by artist Anish Kapoor that will form the centrepiece of the 2012 Olympics in London, is worth £17.54bn.

A bumper crop of foreign billionaires has followed Mittal onto the Rich List this year, as Russian oligarchs and high-flying Chinese and Indian entrepreneurs make Britain their home.

Russian steel tycoon Alisher Usmanov, who is in the running to buy Arsenal football club, appears alongside fellow countrymen Roman Abramovich and Len Blavatnik, the media tycoon.

For the first time since the Sunday Times Rich List was launched, there are more than 100 women in the top 1,000. Self-made billionaire Dame Mary Perkins, who with her husband has built up the Specsavers opticians’ chain, is just one of the tally of 105 top women.

London and the south east is still the most affluent area, with 53 per cent of the top 1,000 residing in these two regions.

The multimillionaires are pumping millions into the capital’s economy, spending their cash on expensive homes and British businesses.

Wealth is also growing globally, with the wealthiest 50 people in the world being valued at a combined £843.7bn, up 11 per cent on last year.

LAKSHMI MITTAL £17.5BN
INDIAN-BORN steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal has topped the Sunday Times rich list for the last seven years in a row.

The 60-year-old made his money through his family’s stake in ArcelorMittal, the firm he runs as chairman and chief executive

A slowdown in demand for steel from construction and manufacturing firms worldwide has hit Mittal, shown in his firm’s $780m (£470m) loss the firm posted in the last quarter of 2010.

Despite the hit, a full-year profit of $2.9bn for the firm meant Mittal could take a dividend of $478m, boosting his wealth.

The multibillionaire is the majority owner of recently promoted west London football club Queens Park Rangers, who will be playing Premier League matches next season thanks to Mittal’s significant investment.

RICH LIST TOP 10
1 Lakshmi Mittal & family £17.5bn
Has lost £5bn on last year yet still remains top.

2 Alisher Usmanov £12.4bn
Made £7.7bn in one year to shoot from sixth to second.

3 Roman Abramovich £10.3bn
The Chelsea owner has put about £1bn into the club.

4 The Duke of Westminster £7bn
Property tycoon made £395m in profit this year.

5 Ernesto & Kirsty Bertarelli £6.8bn
Top husband and wife team in pharmaceuticals sector.

6 Leonard Blavatnik £6.23bn
Russian-born media mogul has shot up from 15th.

7 John Fredriksen & family £6.2bn
His twin daughters, Kathrine and Cecile, run UK firms.

8 David & Simon Reuben £6.1bn
The brothers are looking to IPO their firm Global Switch.

9= Gopi & Sri Hinduja £6bn
New entry industrialists have had a bumper year.

9= Galen & George Weston £6bn
Associated British Foods has made their fortune

RICH LIST FACTS
Old money and young bling
The oldest individual on the Rich List is Sir Bernard Schreier, the 93-year-old Austrian-born entrepreneur, who has an estimated fortune of £365m. The youngest is India Rose James, 20, who along with her sister Fawn are valued at £302m. The pair inherited their wealth from father Paul Raymond, the late Soho porn baron.

Women close the gender gap
Women are closing the gender gap on men, with the number of females on the Rich List topping 100 for the first time in its history. There is still a long way to go, however, with men still dominating the compilation of Britain’s wealthiest individuals.

Self-made millionaires dominate
There are 762 self-made millionaires on the Rich List out of 1,000 individuals, proving that you can be the master of your own fortune. There are 238 multimillionaires, including the Queen and princes William and Harry, who have inherited their cash piles.

Philanthropic entrepreneurs
Charity donations are down 33 per cent on last year. Yet the top 100 philanthropists still managed to give away a combined £1.67bn. The most generous millionaire this year is Anurag Dikshit, despite him not placing within the top 1,000 on the Rich List. The Indian businessman has an estimated wealth of £35m, yet recently gave away £172.4m to the Kusuma Trust, the Gibraltan charity he runs with his wife.

List-topping political animals
Millions have been handed to political parties by individuals on the Rich List. The highest donation was by Sir Anthony Bamford, the chairman of digger maker JCB, who gave £1.4m to the Conservatives last year. The second highest contribution was to Labour by Nigel Doughty, the private equity tycoon, who gave the party around £1m.

The biggest Liberal Democrat donor was Lord Alliance, the Iranian-born businessmen, who gave Nick Clegg’s party £308,000.