Inventor Sir James Dyson now UK’s richest person
Inventor Sir James Dyson has topped the Sunday Times Rich List for the first time after increasing his net worth by £3.6bn in a year. The Brexit-backing entrepreneur made his fortune with the invention of the bag-less vacuum cleaner which went on sale in 1993.
He replaced Indian-born businessmen Sri and Gopi Hinduja at the summit. The coronavirus pandemic is being blamed for a fall in the overall wealth of the UK’s richest people.
A self-made man, Sir James, 72, grew up in Norfolk in the 1950s and studied art before his art college principal suggested he go into design.
After inventing a wheelbarrow in 1974 which used a spherical wheel – designed to be easier to manoeuvre – he then set about creating the product for which he is best known after seeing an industrial extractor and imagining how it could be downsized for home use.
It was more than 10 years before it made it to the market, and at one stage Sir James owed his bank nearly £1m.
But it was a success and soon became Britain’s best-selling vacuum cleaner, making its inventor very wealthy.
More recently he backed Brexit, arguing that the UK would be better off outside the European Union, and has relocated his business headquarters to Singapore, having previously moved production from Wiltshire to Malaysia.
Most Dyson products are designed in the UK but manufactured in Asia. In March the government ordered 10,000 ventilators from the company to help with the coronavirus crisis, although Sir James later told employees these were no longer needed. In an interview with the Sunday Times, Sir James told the paper his recent bid to build an electric car had been scrapped despite costing £500m of his own money.
“Ours is a life of risk and of failure,” he said. “We try things and they fail. Life isn’t easy.”
The list is based on estimates of the minimum wealth of the 1,000 richest people or families in the UK.
The valuations for this year’s list were carried out up to the end of April to take into account the early impact of the coronavirus pandemic, with valuations adjusted where there have been significant movements in the value of listed companies.
Identifiable wealth and significant shares in publicly quoted companies are included but bank accounts and small shareholdings in a private equity portfolio are excluded.
The Sunday Times team is cautious about liabilities and any owners or large shareholders of companies which have been involved in talks with banks over debt levels have been removed from the list.
The list includes people who are not British citizens but live and work in Britain.
Family shareholdings are grouped together where it is obvious the family acts together to defend the company’s interests. The wealth of the top 1,000 richest people in Britain fell for the first time since the financial crash, down by 3.7% overall.
The Hinduja brothers, who are co-chairmen of the India-based conglomerate the Hinduja Group, saw their wealth drop by £6bn in a year while Sir Jim Ratcliffe, who topped the Rich List in 2018, saw his net worth drop the same amount.
List compiler Robert Watts said: “Ever since the financial crisis of 2008-9, Britain’s wealthiest people have become richer and richer. “Covid-19 has called time on their golden period. This year’s rich list paints a picture of Britain on the brink of calamity – two months after lockdown and already billions of pounds have been wiped out.
“You may not like the super-rich, but it is hard to deny that our economy will need the jobs they create and the taxes they and their companies pay if we are to escape a prolonged recession that causes further misery to millions.”
The list also noted a number of billionaires have sought to use the government’s emergency furlough scheme, under which staff are paid 80% of their salary by the state, up to £2,500 a month.
Who else made it?
The wealthiest woman on the list is Kirsten Rausing, who owns a third of the holding company which has the rights to Tetra Pak cartons.
Charlene de Carvalho-Heineken, the daughter of brewing magnate Freddy Heineken, also makes it into the top 10. Actress Salma Hayek and her husband, French billionaire Francois-Henri Pinault, are also on the list.
The Queen comes in at 372 with an estimated worth of £350m.
The highest placed new entry is fashion mogul Anders Povlsen, who is Scotland’s largest landowner and owns stakes in online retailer Asos and Danish clothing firm Bestseller.
Sir Paul McCartney is the highest-placed musician with £800m, while singer Rihanna is a new entry with an estimated £468m.
Sir Elton John, Sir Mick Jagger and Keith Richards make up the rest of the musical top five, with Sir Ringo Starr missing out by £10m.
The Duke of Westminster, whose fortune derives from his family’s property empire, continues to top the list of the 50 richest people under 30.
Lady Charlotte Wellesley comes in second. She is married to Alejandro Santo Domingo who made his fortune in brewing.
Jack Sullivan, son of West Ham co-owner David, comes in third, while musician Ed Sheeran comes in fifth off the back of his record 255-concert tour completed last year.
Boxer Anthony Joshua moved into the top 10 having regained his world titles in December while Lewis Hamilton is placed at 545th with a net-worth of £224m, making him the richest active sportsman.
Former England football captain David Beckham, along with his wife Victoria, was the highest placed sportsperson at 354th – although several Premier League owners came in much higher. Sir Jim Ratcliffe, who owns cycling’s Team Ineos as well as French football club OGC Nice, topped the sports club-owners list. Ex-Arsenal shareholder Alisher Uzmanov and Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich were also in the top three.
The Sunday Times Rich List Top 10
- Sir James Dyson and family, household goods and technology, £16.2bn.
- Sri and Gopi Hinduja and family, industry and finance, £16bn.
- David and Simon Reuben, property and internet, £16bn.
- Sir Leonard Blavatnik, investment, music and media, £15.78bn.
- Sir Jim Ratcliffe, Ineos chemical giant, £12.15bn.
- Kirsten and Jorn Rausing, inheritance and investment, £12.1bn.
- Alisher Usmanov, mining and investment, £11.68bn.
- Guy, George and Galen Jr Weston and family, retail, £10.53bn.
- Charlene de Carvalho-Heineken and Michel de Carvalho, inheritance, brewing and banking, £10.3bn.
- The Duke of Westminster and the Grosvenor family, property, £10.29bn