The 2017 Hertfordshire Rich List
PUBLISHED: 11:15 14 March 2017 | UPDATED: 10:42 15 March 2017
Our 2017 list of the 50 wealthiest Herts people shows times are a-changing. We chart those moving up, down and new entries in the shifting world of big business
1. Mike Ashley (09/12/64), retail, £2.1bn
Mike Ashley is intent on becoming the new Mr. Selfridge. The Sports Direct billionaire may have had a torrid year at his sports clothing retailer, but he is intent on moving upmarket by selling several brands to concentrate on relationships with top ¬selling international brands such as Nike and Adidas.
It is all part of a bid to become the ‘Selfridges of Sports’. In December Sports Direct successfully agreed a sale of Dunlop to Japanese buyers Sumitomo Rubber Industries for £122m, while maintaining a royalty ¬free license to continue using the brand. The move upmarket will be welcome to Ashley’s long¬suffering shareholders. Over the last year they have witnessed press exposés of the working conditions at his Nottinghamshire warehouse, tough grilling by MPs and the sort of headlines that no business owner wants. Despite efforts by Ashley to improve corporate governance and open up the business to scrutiny, Sports Direct is now worth £1.7bn – against £4.46bn a year ago. Ashley’s stake is now worth £945m. But the canny Ashley, a former squash coach who started Sports Direct in 1982 with a £10,000 loan from his parents, has other assets too. He pocketed £929m in one day when he floated Sports Direct on the stock market in 2007 and another £314m of sales in 2014 and 2015. That has enabled him to fund now Championship club Newcastle United (relegated at the end of the 2015¬16 Premier League campaign), which he bought for £134m in 2007 and bankrolled to the tune of well over £300m in total since then. Other windfalls from the sale of leases he owned on 32 Sports Direct stores raised nearly £87m. Past property deals, dividends and salaries and any remaining cash, should take Hertfordshire¬ resident Ashley to £2.10bn.
2. Sir Cameron Mackintosh (17/10/46), theatre, £1.18bn
The star producer behind Les Misérables, Miss Saigon, Cats and many other West End and worldwide hits has said that Brexit was affecting London’s theatreland ‘in a wonderful way’
‘There’s going to be winners and losers in all this,’ said Mackintosh after last summer’s Brexit vote. ‘But there’s no doubt the entertainment business and the theatre is really benefiting from where the pound is at the moment and visitors wanting to come to London.’
A former stage hand at the Theatre Royal in London’s Drury Lane, Mackintosh was raised in Cuffley near Welwyn. He later graduated to stage manager on several touring productions, becoming a London¬based producer in the 1970s. His big break came in 1981 when he produced Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats, which became the hit of the season and later one of the longest¬running musicals on both sides of the Atlantic. Mackintosh’s eight London theatres made a very healthy £13.6m profit on £45.2m sales in 2015¬16. His Music Theatre International, which licenses secondary performance rights, licenses 25,000 productions a year to 70,000 organisations ¬ taking a 15 per cent cut of any fee paid. In all, he made £27.8m profit on £146.7m sales in 2015¬16. Mackintosh’s business empire is now easily worth £1bn. Private assets, including his property, and a £35m dividend last year take Mackintosh to £1,180m this year.
3. Luke & Brian Comer (30/11/57 & 6/1/60), property, £770m
The Comers’ latest property developments include Royal Connaught Park, a former private school that served as Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films. The brothers, originally from Galway, are transforming the Hertfordshire site creating some 380 luxury homes with prices of up to £2.8m.
The pair have come a long way since starting out in business together as plasterers back in 1971. The low-key brothers, from a Barnet base, built a British property portfolio and then went into the German market when it was in recession buying assets cheaply.
In 2010, with the Irish economy in deep trouble and property prices in freefall, they turned their attention to their homeland and started buying at the bottom of the market.
The Comers, who are known in horseracing circles for owning five stud farms, told a Galway paper last year that they had 500 companies worldwide and that their assets were worth £2.25 billion.
‘A conservative evaluation would be we’d be worth around £1 bn in England, three-quarters of that in Germany and half a billion in Ireland,’ Luke told the Galway Advertiser. We can see £95m net assets in 14 British companies. Enthusiastic horse owners, the brothers’ assets include around 200 breeding thoroughbred and more than 20 in training.
Luke lives quietly in Monaco while Brian has a residence in Hertfordshire complete with its own golf course. We now put the Comers at £770m.
4. Peter Harris (25/3/34) & family, leisure, £680m
Every year more than four million families visit a Butlins, Warner Leisure or other holiday destination owned by Bourne Leisure. The Hemel Hempstead-based business was founded by Peter Harris and David Allen back in 1964. Profits rose to a record £134.1m on sales of £951.4m in 2015. The company’s assets grew to almost £300m. We still value the business at £1.1bn and the Harris family stake at £400m. Dividends of £50m were paid last year, on top of more than £100m in the two previous years. He and his family own more than 60% in £300m spread-betting operation Spreadex, which has paid out more than £50m of dividends in the past three years. A successful horse owner and trainer, he has substantial racing assets. Taking account of strong dividends, past salaries, tax and other interests we now value Harris at £680m.
5. Tony Tabatznik (2/8/47) & family, pharmaceuticals, £500m
In June 2009, Stevenage-based Arrow Generics was sold to the American Watson Pharmaceuticals for $1.75bn in cash and shares. Tony Tabatznik founded Arrow in 2000 and turned it into one of the fastest-growing companies in the pharmaceuticals sector. Its sales grew from $18m in 2001 to more than $650m in 2008. Over seven years, Arrow has invested more than $320m in product research and development. Tabatznik has joined the Watson boards and said of the takeover: ‘This is a brilliant move for both Watson and Arrow and we are very excited about being part of this great combination. Together we will have the resources, the skills and the capabilities to build one of the premier speciality pharmaceutical companies in the world.’
Arrow specialises in sterile and respiratory drugs with operations in Britain, Europe, Australasia and the Americas. It is the second successful foray into pharmaceuticals for the Tabatznik family. South African-born Tabatznik sold his family’s Generics (UK) operation to Merck, the German pharma giant in the mid-1990s, netting £200m for the family stake.
A leading supporter of Labour in the past, Tabatznik gave the party over £5,000 in the run up to the 1997 election. Tabatznik is also on the board of European Healthcare Group, a profitable nursing home operator. With the sale proceeds from both sales, Tabatznik and his family are easily worth £500m.
6. Charles Gallagher (15/10/59) & family, construction, £412m
The Dublin-based Abbey housebuilding group is valued at £249m on the stock market. It had a tough time after the Brexit vote with profits down 27 per cent in the six months to the end of October. The business is run and controlled by the Gallagher family led by Charles. It was built up by his late father, also Charles, one of seven brothers from Co Sligo.
Most of the brothers emigrated to the UK in the 1930s and 40s and worked their way up in the UK building industry. Some of the Gallaghers returned to Ireland in the 50s and set up their own house-building company, Abbey. The company was floated on the Irish Stock Exchange in 1974, at the tail end of the housing boom. Charles senior was the company’s chief executive when it first went public, but was soon forced out by family members. He returned to the UK and spent most of the following decade developing his own house-building company, Matthew Homes.
But he returned to the helm of Abbey in 1983 and successfully fought off a takeover bid from a British company. Abbey then prospered on the back of the Tory housing boom in the 1980s. Charles junior joined the board in 1986 and took on chairmanship when his father died in 1993. Today the family stake is worth £183m - down £13m on a year ago. The family’s other main operation is Matthew Homes, based in St Albans, which made £11m profit on £51m sales in 2015.
With £87m net assets, it is still a £110m operation. The family’s property operation, Gallagher Holdings, also showed £74.8m net assets and there is another £46.2m in a plant hire company. With some overlap of shareholdings, the Gallagher family should be worth £412m with other assets.
7. Michael & Xochi Birch (7/7/70 & 11/1/72), internet, £375m
Bebo founder Birch and his wife Xochi are breathing new life into the Devon village where his ancestors have lived since the 1700s. The US-based tech couple have bought five buildings in Woolsery, where he used to spend his childhood holidays. He is converting the manor house into a 19-bedroom hotel and the restored Farmers Arms pub where he used to eat with his grandmother is set to reopen later this year. The Birches have also bought the village chippy and the house where his great-grand mother used to live.
The Cheshunt-raised internet entrepreneur started the Bebo social networking site with his wife in 2005. Three years later they sold it to AOL for £510m, netting around £357m for their 70 per cent stake. They bought back Bebo for around £600,000 in July 2013, just five years after selling it. But they have parked it for now.
The Birchs, an Anglo-American couple, have invested in about 50 companies and charities, and have even built a pub - ‘the original social network’, says Birch - in their San Francisco home. Their investments are varied. Knotch, a US-based data company that helps customers track their digital campaign, is one of their latest punts. CitySocialising, a website pioneering the convergence of virtual and real world social networking, is also being backed by them. They have also put £75,000 into Double, a dating app.
The Birchs have a $13m mansion on the shores of Lake Washington, in the same neighbourhood as Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos. We still value the couple at £375m after-tax.
8. Sir Peter Ogden (26/5/47), computers, £350m
After university and a career in finance, Ogden co¬founded the Hatfield computer group Computacenter in 1981 with business partner Philip Hulme. They had met at Harvard studying for the prestigious MBA degree. Computacenter floated on the stock market in 1998 and Ogden’s stake is now worth £225m, including those in trust. Ogden also had a £100m stake in Dealogic, a software company recently taken over in a £438m deal. He gave £25m to fund bright students from poor backgrounds at some of the leading independent schools, many coming from Lancashire. With other assets and after his hefty charitable work, which earned him a knighthood in 2005, Ogden is worth £350m.
9. Marquess of Salisbury (30/9/46), property, land & art, £330m
Gascoyne Estates and a partner sold a City office block in June 2015 for nearly £34m. This followed a Leicester Square cinema sale in 2014 for over £23m. The company, the property arm of the Marquess of Salisbury’s family, owns, lets and manages up to 300 residential properties in Hatfield, London and Dorset.
Salisbury’s Hatfield House in Hertfordshire, completed in 1612, is a treasure trove of paintings worth £150m. In addition, there is Cranborne Manor, the family estate in Dorset. Together they have 10,300 acres. His main farming company, Gascoyne Cecil Farms, and four others showed over £12m net assets in 2014¬15. The London estate with valuable acreage around Leicester Square and American assets take Salisbury to £330m.
10. Tim Martin (28/4/55), pubs, £322m
EU-hating Tim Martin printed 200,000 Brexit beermats in the final days before last summer’s referendum. Although remainers couldn’t help highlighting that JD Wetherspoon lost £18m from its market cap in the days after Britain voted leave. That was just a blip. The pub group’s profits rose by 12.5 per cent to £66m in 2015-16.
Spoons, as it is nicknamed, was founded by Martin in 1979 and is now valued by the stock market at £990m. Despite the profits fall, the shares have recovered from recent stock market turmoil and Martin, a former lawyer, has a £297m stake. We add another £25m for dividends – including more than £17m in the past four years - and other assets. This takes Martin to £322m.
11. David & Victoria Beckham (2/5/75 & 17/4/74), fashion & football, £320m
If you are looking for a spacious holiday retreat and have a spare £2.4m to hand, the Beckhams’ 200¬acre French estate is up for sale. The glamorous couple paid £1.5m for the six ¬bedroom Domaine Saint¬ Vincent mansion back in 2003 and have spent £4m over the years on its renovation. This suggests that if they get their asking price they will have still taken a £4m hit on their property. The Beckhams can easily afford such a setback. David’s 21 ¬year football career ended in 2013 with Paris St Germain, after a 10¬ year spell with Manchester United followed by a four¬ year deal with Real Madrid and then a five¬ year contract with LA Galaxy, where he was by far the highest ¬paid player in Major League Soccer on £4m per year.
This represented a small fraction of his overall annual earnings from grooming products and endorsements of companies as diverse as Adidas, Coty, H&M, LVS, Belstaff, Breitling Haigh whisky and Hachette. He has signed a five ¬year deal to be an ambassador for Sky Sports and promote its Living for Sport initiative, which encourages children to take up sport. The Beckham bandwagon is also moving into China, with a five ¬year deal to promote the Chinese Super League.
Beckham’s company, Footwork Productions, paid him over £147m in salary and dividends from 2002 to 2015. Forbes magazine in its analysis of the 20 highest paid athletes of all time in 2016 put Becks’ total career earnings at $730m or £600m. Those close to him say he earned around £60m in 2015.
The Beckhams bought a £2.5m house in Sawbridgeworth in 1999, the year of their marriage, selling it in 2014 for £11.4m. Victoria has deep roots in Hertfordshire, having grown up near Broxbourne. She made her separate fortune as a pop star with the Spice Girls and in fashion with her clothing brand. She sells in 400 top stockists around the world and won the prestigious Designer Brand Of The Year at the 2011 British Fashion Awards. She launched her mainline collection, Victoria Beckham, and a collaboration with Range Rover in 2013. However, the accounts for Victoria’s enterprise suggested it only made a profit after the injection of funds from her husband. A new parent for the pair, Beckham Brand Holdings, saw its profits hit £15.8m on £51.4m sales in 2014. It paid out £6m in dividends to David and Victoria, while David’s own company paid a £6.5m dividend in the same year. We put the pair at £320m this year.
12. Iris Gibbor (29/8/51) & family, industry, £298m
Iris Gibbor chairs CP Holdings, the Watford-based conglomerate which owns hotels in Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania, Israel and the UK as well as logistics, car dealing, serviced offices and other businesses.
The group was founded by her late father, Sir Bernard Schreier, in the 1950s. Sir Bernard died in 2013 at the age of 95.
In 2015 profits at CP rose strongly to hit £27.4m on sales of £468.2m. CP’s net assets stand at nearly £272.6m. We add £25m for past dividends and other assets to Gibbor and the Schreier family.
Gibbor graduated from Cardiff University and worked as a facilities manager for ABC News for eight years.
13. Colin Allen & Family (3/5/60), leisure, £260m
The late David Allen co-founded Hemel Hempstead-based Bourne Leisure, the holiday camp and caravan park group, which made a record £134.1m profit on £951.4m sales in 2015. Dividends of £50m were paid last year, on top of more than £100m in the two previous years. We value the company at £1.1bn. The Allen family, led by his son Colin, have a £220m stake in Bourne. Other family assets including a holding in £300m spread-betting firm Spreadex, worth around £12m. A profitable tree business and hefty Bourne dividends in recent years take the Allens to £260m.
14. The McAlpine Family, construction, £230m
The McAlpine family will be hoping that a recent £3.5m contract for Big Ben will add a bong or two to its financial performance. The family’s construction ¬to ¬property group Sir Robert McAlpine was started by Sir Robert McAlpine in 1869. Known as Concrete Bob, he was born in Newarthill, North Lanarkshire, and left school at the age of 10 to work in a coal mine, but became an apprentice bricklayer. He was involved in the building of roads, public buildings and other works, perhaps his most famous work being the Glenfinnan railway viaduct, completed in 1898 and familiar to Harry Potter fans worldwide. It was built entirely of concrete, hence McAlpine’s nickname.
Sir Robert McAlpine’s parent company, Newarthill, based in Hemel Hempstead, has had a difficult time of late due to the enduring legacy of certain contracts agreed during the recession. In 2015 its losses fell though from £68m to £35.7m and it expected to return to profit in 2016. Its net assets fell sharply to £90.6m and we value the business on that figure. The company demerged its £120m Renewable Energy Systems operation in 2009. Newarthill should be worth its net assets and we add another £140m for other assets.
16=. Peter Dean (28/9/44) & family, egg production, £212m
Tring-based Noble Foods is Britain’s biggest egg supplier, producing and delivering more than 60 million eggs a week to their customers. William Dean hatched the business back in 1920, collecting eggs from smallholders and selling them door-to-door in straw-lined wicker baskets.
In 2010 the business gobbled up Gü Desserts, the purveyor of upmarket puddings, and in March of the same year the company added Didier’s Patisserie, a ‘top end desserts business with a number of exclusive retail and foodservice customers’.
The operation has confirmed plans for a £400m float by 2018. Dean chairs the business.
He and his family own a 50 per cent stake as does Michael Kent, who acquired half of the company in 2006 when he was the then owner of Stonegate.
They both should be worth £212m with past dividends.
16=. Michael Kent (04/08/1949), food, £212m
Tring-based Noble Foods is Britain’s biggest egg supplier, producing and delivering more than 60 million eggs a week to their customers. William Dean hatched the business back in 1920, collecting eggs from smallholders and selling them door-to-door in straw-lined wicker baskets. In 2010 the business gobbled up Gu Desserts, the purveyor of up market puddings. The business has confirmed plans for a £400m float by 2018. Michael Kent has a 50% stake and should be worth £212m with past dividends.
18. Philip Hulme (27/8/48), computers, £210m
Hulme co-founded Computacenter, the Hatfield-based computer operation, with fellow Harvard Business School graduate Sir Peter Ogden (q.v.) in 1981. Hulme has an £87m stake and has sold around £30m worth of shares in recent years.
Hulme also had a £100m stake in software company Dealogic recently taken over in a £438m deal. After charitable donations, Hulme is worth £210m.
19. David McMullen (27/4/45) & family, brewing, £155m
Peter McMullen spent his life poaching and failing apprenticeships until his wife Sarah prompted him to found a brewery. That was back in 1827 and today – six generations of McMullen later – the family’s Hertford¬based brewery is still making Hopping Mad, Stronghart and a range of other ales. The business also operates more than 120 pubs across Hertfordshire, Essex and London. The Hertford¬based McMullen and Sons saw its profits grow to £16.1m on £75.4m sales in 2015. Its net assets rose to nearly £132.9m. We value the company on those net assets. But past dividends and other assets take the wider family represented by former chairman David McMullen to £155m.
20=. Simon Dolan (25/5/69), business services, £140m
Former kickboxing champion Simon Dolan started his career as an entrepreneur selling eggs and cheese in a Chelmsford market. Now a serial entrepreneur Dolan has interests ranging from accountancy, employment services, motor racing, publishing and an airline. His parent company, Hemel Hempstead¬based SJD Group, was sold in September 2014 for £80m. He has become enthused by motor racing and created his own team Jota Sport in 2011, which won the 24 hour Le Mans race three years later. His past salaries, car collection and property interests take Dolan to £140m.
20=. Stelio Stefanou (6/11/52), business services, £140m
Stelio Stefanou sold his business services company, Accord, in 2007 for a reported £180m. He founded the Welwyn-based Stefanou Foundation charity which he now runs. He should be worth £140m after-tax and charitable work.
22. David Kahn (24/7/31) & family, industry, £132m
Altro is a world-leading manufacturer and supplier of interior surfaces. The Letchworth-based operation was founded in 1919. The company invented its Altro safety flooring in 1947, offering a sheet vinyl floor covering that promises a smooth, slip-resistant surface.
The company has been ranked in The Sunday Times Top 100 Best Companies to work for. The Kahn family, led by chairman David Kahn, own the business which made a £10.7m profit on £121.4m sales in 2015. With £71.3m net assets and a strong balance sheet, it is worth £120m on these figures. Kahn and his family own the business. Past dividends add £12m.
23. Lewis Hamilton (7/1/85), motor racing, £125m
An exciting 2016 F1 season saw Lewis Hamilton finish runner up just five points behind Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg. So Hamilton still has just four drivers ahead of him on the grid now when it comes to multiple World Championship titles: Michael Schumacher (seven), Juan Manuel Fangio (five), Sebastian Vetted and Alain Prost (four each). Only Prost and Schumacher have won more grands prix. Hamilton’s third title win in the 2015 season was achieved at a canter, the trophy secured with three races to spare. Hamilton has more titles firmly in his sights and has committed to the Mercedes AMG Petronas team for a further three seasons to help him achieve this.
His new deal with the Silver Arrows, which kicked in at the start of 2016, sees him earn a basic $31m (£21.4m) rising to $40m (£27.6m) with the sort of bonuses that come from winning more world championships. It’s a significant rise on his previous £15m a year deal and offers Hamilton the chance to become Britain’s richest sportsman, surpassing even David Beckham (qv).
He enjoys the trappings or success: he owns a £20m Bombardier jet to ferry him to and from race circuits across the globe, a £10m apartment in the modern Fontvieille district of Monaco and a home in the mountains of Colorado in the United States. Hamilton, who grew up in Stevenage, moved first to Switzerland and then Monaco, in a bid for more privacy. The tax regime in both places is also kinder. Forbes put his earnings in 2016 at $46m (£38m) of which over £3m comes from endorsement deals with IWC, Bombardier, L’Oreal and Monster Energy. We are more conservative than Forbes and push Hamilton up to £125m.
24. Daniel Durkan (9/9/64) & Family, construction, £120m
Irishman Bill Durkan went to work in London for the first time in the 1950s. He started his own construction firm in 1970 and today Durkan Holdings is run by his son Daniel.
The Hertfordshire-based housing developer and contractor focuses on new build, local authority refurbishment schemes and senior living developments across London and southeast England. It made a hefty £19m profit on £192.6m sales in 2015, helped by a strong development pipeline and improved performance of its construction division. With £45m assets, it should be worth £120m. Durkan Holdings is owned by overseas trusts but we assume that the Durkan family are the ultimate owners.
25. Pauline Chai (10/11/46), divorce, £117m
A former Miss Malaysia, Chai last year won a legal judgement allowing the divorce from her husband, Laura Ashley chairman Dr Khoo Kay Peng, to take place in the UK. Although both parties are Malaysian, they moved to Berkhamsted a few years ago. After three years of legal arguments over which legal jurisdiction their split should take place in, the couple now face a new battle over the division of assets valued at between £440m and £500m.
With legal costs having already hit £6.1m, a High Court judge last summer urged the couple to declare ‘an armistice’ because they had already racked up ‘stratospheric’ lawyers’ fees. We await the outcome and meanwhile tentatively put Chai, married to Dr Khoo for 43 years, at around a quarter of his fortune at £120m. With another £3m knocked off for any share of legal bills.
26=. William Hughes (1/7/41), care homes, £105m
B&M Care, a Hemel Hempstead ¬based care home operator and developer, is owned and run by Irishman William Hughes. He bought his first care home, Clare Lodge in St Albans, in 1975.
It has also moved into the serviced office market. In 2015 it made an £8.8m profit on £36.2m sales. With nearly £67m net assets, it is a £102m operation. Dividends and other assets take Hughes to £105m.
26=. Michael Yarrow (2/12/47) & family, industry, £105m
The low-key Michael Yarrow is MD of Diomed Developments, Hitchin-based manufacturer of dermatological products. Founded in 1963, it trades as Dermal Laboratories.
Its products are well known among dermatologists, GPs and nurses and widely prescribed for the treatment of a variety of skin disorders, such as psoriasis, eczema, dry skin conditions and acne. Diomed, owned by the Yarrow family, is a profitable operation, making nearly £8.5m profit on £65.2m sales in 2014¬15. We value the company at £100m, adding £5m to the Yarrow family for dividends and other assets.
26=. Michael Masterson (20/12/50) & family, construction, £105m
Masterson Holdings, a Hemel Hempstead-based construction operation, was started in 1980 by Irish-born entrepreneur Michael Masterson and his wife Mona. It has subsidiaries in concrete frame, joinery and plant hire. Profits soared to a record £11.7m on £155.2m sales in 2014-15. Masterson owns the £95m business with his family and trusts. Other assets take the Masterson family to £105m after-tax and spending.
29. Thembalath Ramachandran (30/11/49), pharmaceuticals, £100m
After three decades as a top pharmacy executive at an Indian company, Ramachandran came to Britain in 1997 and started his own pharma company, Bristol Laboratories. In 2015-16 the Berkhamsted-based business made £8m profit on £95.1m sales. The £130m operation is 76 per cent owned by Ramachandran’s trust. Other assets take him to £100m.
30. Andrew Cohen (2/5/53) & family, retailing, £95m
Andrew Cohen made his money in retailing when he left school at 17 to work for his father, selling women’s dresses in Scotland. In 1983, the family acquired Birmingham¬ based Betterware and transformed its operations. After a difficult stock market float in 1986, Cohen turned Betterware into one of the top retailers in Britain. The shares soared and in 1993, the Cohen family realised £30m in a share sale. In 1997 Cohen agreed to sell the firm to a management team, netting £42.7m, but kept a £12m stake. Cohen was bought back to the Birmingham ¬based company to be non¬executive chairman in 2002. But five years later he sold his near 50% stake in Betterware Investments. Radlett¬ based Cohen is a keen racehorse owner and collects cinema posters. He sold a poster for Fritz Lang’s movie Metropolis for £394,000 at a private sale in London in November 2005. We can see nearly £44m of net assets in Hertfordshire based Cohen’s property companies. The family should be worth £95m after¬ tax and re¬investment of sale proceeds.
31=. Robert Weston (11/07/55) & family, construction, £82m
Bishops Stortford-based Weston Group is one of the leading developers in London and the south east, typically completing 700 homes a year ranging from high-rise flats to renovations of historic buildings such as Royal Earlswood and Preston Hall.
The company was established when Robert Weston decided to leave Fairview New Homes in 1987 after 12 years to run his own house building operation. The following years saw the rapid expansion of the group, which started in his garage. In 2003, it moved into a newly built 42,000 sq ft prestigious office building.
In 2015-16, Weston Group’s made £16m profit on sales of £154.1m. Net assets grew by almost £10m to £44.4m. Weston chairs the group and with his family owns around 40% of the ordinary shares. This stake should easily be worth £80m on its recent performance. We add £2m for dividends.
31=. Tim Steiner (9/12/69), retailing, £82m
Ocado, the Hemel Hempstead-based online grocer, floated on the stock market in 2010 valued at £937m. Its shares have had a roller coaster ride on the stock market ever since and it is now worth £1.63bn. Investors fear the threat posed to Ocado by Amazon, the American online retail behemoth, entering the British grocery market. Ocado was set up in 2000 by a trio of former Goldman Sachs bankers including chief executive Tim Steiner. His stake is now worth £77m. Share option profits etc take him to £82m.
33=. Stephen Brooks (30/3/62), exhibitions, £80m
Brooks Events, a St Albans-based exhibition organiser, is run and owned by Stephen Brooks. The company, established in 1965, turned in a record £14.2m profit on £36.2m sales in the year to August 2015 when it grew by overseas acquisition. Trading as Mack Brooks, it owns and organises leading international trade fairs and business-to-business exhibitions, events and conferences around the world in specialised industry sectors. The Mack Brooks Group also publishes related directories, magazines, sector reports and websites. It should easily be worth £80m.
33=. James Neville (24/11/66) & family, industry, £80m
Royston-based Volac makes and supplies high performance nutrition products for the global markets. It is one of the five leaders in the forage additive global market, currently worth £200m. The world market for dairy additives is forecast to hit £42bn by 2020, and again Volac is a leading player here. But tough trading conditions in 2015 saw profits fall to £11.1m on sales down only slightly at £197.4m.
The £120m business is run by Neville and the wider family stake is worth £75m. Other assets add £5m.
35=. Sir Terry Leahy (28/2/56), retailing, £70m
Sir Terry Leahy, former Tesco boss until 2011, led the successful 2014 £2.7 billion flotation of the B&M discount retailer. Much of his wealth though comes from his years at Tesco. He had around 8.5m shares before he retired which would have fallen to around £13m today as the Hertfordshire ¬based operation has been having a torrid time of late. He also amassed an £18.4m pension pot after 14 years at the helm, and even when he had left, picked up £8.5m in deferred performance-¬related payouts. But we assume he has sold some shares beyond the £3m worth in 2010 to fund an array of promising ventures which are making him much richer.
Leahy was not born into wealth. His father was a greyhound trainer and Leahy was raised in a prefab maisonette in the Lee Park council estate in Liverpool’s downmarket Belle Vale suburb with his three older brothers. They grew up like any local kids, kicking a ball around and supporting Everton. Leahy, however, was the only member of the family with any academic inclination: ‘My brothers all left school at 16 but my parents worked very hard so that I could stay on and do my A-¬levels,’ which he did after winning a scholarship to St Edward’s College, one of the city’s best grammar schools. In the summer holidays he got a job stacking shelves in a local branch of Tesco. After A¬-levels he took a BSc course in management science at Umist in Manchester, followed by a brief spell as a management trainee at the Co¬op.
In 1979 he followed a girlfriend to London and applied for a job with Alcan, the packaging firm. He could have ended up as a product manager for baking foil. Instead he took a post as junior marketing executive with Tesco. Leahy was a marketing manager at 25. Fifteen years later he was chief executive. We reckon that in all, aside from his pension, his years at Tesco gave him a £38m fortune.
But he has added to that. Among the ventures he has backed is Blackcircles.com, an internet tyre operation, where he had 25 per cent of the company sold for £50m in 2015. He has also invested in other online businesses to the tune of perhaps £20m. He does not have a direct stake in B&M. But Leahy will have made a healthy return from his involvement with the American private equity group Clayton Dubilier & Rice, which bought a 60 per cent stake in B&M for nearly £1bn in 2012. It sold £690m of shares in the B&M float and retains a near £348m stake. With other investments, and allowing for re¬investment of Tesco salaries, Leahy should now be worth £70m.
35=. Brian Morrisroe (31/08/1955), construction, £70m
Borehamwood¬-based AJ Morrisroe & Sons was founded by Brian Morrisroe in 1983 specializing in Groundworks and Reinforced Concrete Frame Construction. It has worked on high profile projects such as the 2012 Olympic. Morrisroe owns all the business which made £9.5m profit on £114.5m sales in 2015. His family also own around £1.5m of other assets we can see. In all the Morrisroe family should be worth £70m.
35=. David Underwood (22/8/52), pharmaceuticals, £70m
Statistician David Underwood worked for a large pharma company when he saw the opportunity to create a business providing expert statistical and statistical programming services for the pharma and healthcare sectors. In 2007 he merged his previous company, Statwood, with Oxford Pharmaceutical Sciences to create fast-growing Quanticate. Since then, it has worked with its numerous clients to safely collect, analyse and report clinical trial data. The Hitchin-based operation has offices in America, Poland, South Africa and India and now reckons to be the largest data-focused clinical research organisation in the world. Quanticate made a record £4.6m profit on nearly £17m turnover in 2015. Underwood and his family have a 70 per cent stake in the £100m operation.
35=. Phil Wallace (22/10/49), food, £70m
Phil Wallace took control of Stevenage FC in 1999 when the club was days away from bankruptcy. Since then he has increased the capacity of the stadium, built a new training facility and today the club plays in the Football League Two, where they are mid¬-table as at the start of 2017. Broadhall Way – now known as the Lamex Stadium after the chairman’s food company – holds 6,700 fans, more than enough for the club’s 3,300 average attendance last season.
‘It costs about £3¬4m per season to run this club,’ Wallace told one sports reporter recently, adding ‘which is £500,000¬£1,000,000 per season more than we get in.’ Wallace regards it as a personal challenge but it is one he can bankroll. Aside from his footballing duties Wallace is the CEO at Lamex, which he joined in 1972 when the company, then known as L+M Foods, were a small food importer based in London. He became a director in 1975 and was appointed managing director and majority shareholder in the early 1980’s. Continuing growth in the group led to a $50m management buyout in 2006, with Wallace retaining a 23 per cent family stake in the newly¬-formed parent, Lamex Food Group. In 2015¬16 it made a record £15.4m profit on £825m sales. Wallace’s Lamex holding and his other assets and past salaries take him to £70m easily despite the cost of supporting the Boro.
35=. Farouq & Haroon Sheikh (13/10/58 & 4/3/56), care homes, £70m
CareTech, the Potters Bar-based care operation, defied the gloom in the sector reporting a 54 per cent rise in profits in the year to September 2016.
The well-managed operation was set up by Kenyan-born Farouq and Haroon Sheikh in 1993. Originally backed by 3i, the private equity giant, the Sheikh brothers saw Barclays Private Equity replace 3i in 2000 as a shareholder in a £35m deal. The Sheikhs bought back control of the company in 2004 and floated it on the stock market in 2005 valued at £58m.
CareTech is now worth over £201m with the shares trading at near an all time high. The Sheikhs sold around £12m worth of shares in the float. With trusts they retain a stake now worth around £46m. After-tax and with other property assets, the Sheikh family should be worth £70m.
40. Guy Ritchie (10/9/66), films, £67m
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is Guy Ritchie’s latest film, due for release early this year. It’s a ‘street-tough take on the mythical British figure’ according to one reviewer and it stars Charlie Hunnam and Jude Law. His last film The Man from U.N.C.L.E., based on the 1960s TV series, was a reasonable hit in 2015, taking nearly $110m at the box office worldwide. In total his films have grossed nearly $1.3bn. Ritchie did well from the two Sherlock films he directed. The first, released in 2009, grossed over $524m at the box office worldwide, while its sequel Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows released two years later made $545m. He earned £9m according to Vanity Fair’s List of Hollywood highest earners in 2010 from the two films.
But Hatfield-born Ritchie is still perhaps best known for his eight-year marriage to America pop queen Madonna which ended in 2008. Relations between the two erupted earlier this year over custody of their 15-year-old son, Rocco. The divorce settlement included the couple’s country estate Ashcombe House in Wiltshire along with a £4m townhouse, their pub, and a £3m property in New York. The real size of the settlement was put at between £39m and £46m. But Ritchie, a successful film director in his own right, should have built up his own fortune over the years. His film companies showed more than £4.5m net assets in 2015. We value Ritchie, now married to model Jacqui Ainsley, at £67m.
41=. John Lawson (11/5/32) & family, Builders’ merchants, £65m
Colney Heath-based Lawsons Holdings is a leading builders’ merchant dating back to 1921. Today the business is run by John Lawson, who returned from national service in the early 1950s to develop a fence contracting operation.
It later became a fully fledged builders’ and timber merchant. In 2015-16, its profits hit a record £7.2m on £84.4m sales. It has a strong balance sheet and should still be worth around £65m. The Lawson family owns most of the shares and should be worth that sum.
41=. Charles Desoutter (30/4/54) & family, industry, £65m
De Soutter Medical is a leading European manufacturer of powered medical devices. The business is run by managing director, Charles Desoutter, and is owned by his family and trusts. The family used to control Desoutter Brothers, a manufacturer of electric and pneumatic power tools, which was taken over way back in 1989 for the then princely sum of £88.7m by a Swedish company. The Desoutter family and trusts had around 20% of the shares we reckon.
As part of the deal the family bought back the medical business for around £850,000. In 2014-15 its Berkhamsted-based parent, Descram Holdings, made £5.6m profit on £27m sales. It has a strong balance sheet and £29.1m net assets. It should be worth £60m. Other assets add £5m.
41=. Mel Cooper (21/4/41) & family, property, £65m
Mel Cooper’s Barnet-based Mountcharm property operation showed net assets of £33.6m in 2015. Other smaller company assets add another £28m. In May 2006 Cooper bought a prestige building in Tel Aviv. He sold it two years later for around double the price. We value the Cooper family at perhaps £65m with other assets.
41=. Terry Pickthall (10/3/39) & family, industry, £65m
CPL Aromas, a Bishop’s Stortford-¬based fragrance and flavour manufacturing operation, was co¬founded by Terry Pickthall in 1971. He floated the company on the stock market in 1994 valued at just over £16m. In 2000, Pickthall and his family took the company private again in a £14m deal. In 2015¬16, CPL made £6.4m profit on record sales of £71.6m. With strong balance sheet and nearly £41m net assets, the company should be worth £65m. It is owned by the Pickthall family and trusts.
45. Jason Gissing (25/10/70), retailing, £60m
Ocado, the Hemel Hempstead-based online grocer, was set up by a trio of Goldman Sachs bankers. Gissing, one of the founding trio, has left the £1.6.3bn company. With his trusts, he had a £58m stake but is not listed as a shareholder any more. But we reckon that with share sales of around £3.6m at the float and a more recent £15m disposal that we can see, he should be worth more than £60m after-tax.
46. Bryan Duffy (21/3/43) & family, leisure, £57m
Duffy and his family sold their Hostelbookers.com online hostel and hotel reservation service in early 2013 for around £60m. For 15 years, Duffy ran a public company and when he retired, he acquired the failing Executive Hotel and turned the business around. It was the start of a chain of budget hotels. The parent company, called MBI MBO and based in Ware, saw its net assets fall to £2.9m in 2015. Duffys’ family own it all. We clip the family back to £57m.
47=. Tony White (3/9/42), industry, £55m
Royston¬based ProCam is now one of the largest agronomy companies in Britain. Its agronomists now walk over one million acres of crops providing technical support to top producers. It offers a range of services, from crop rotation planning and budgeting to seed processing and soil sampling. Led by chairman Tony White, it made £7.4m profit on £217m sales in 2015. It should be worth £75m. White and his family trusts have a £53m stake. Past dividends etc. take him to £55m.
47=. Nicholas Kebbell (28/10/51) & family, construction, £55m
Kebbell Homes is a family-owned business started in 1953. The company’s UK projects have been built from Durham in the north to Southampton in the south. The company is also active internationally.
Kebbell developed in France for over 20 years with completed projects of flats and houses around Paris and further schemes of flats in Lille and near Caen. In the US, Kebbell has several current developments in the Houston area.
The Watford-¬based operation is run by managing director Nicholas Kebbell, son of the founder. In 2015, its parent Kebbell Holdings saw its profits fall sharply to just £804,000 but the company does have a strong balance sheet and with £50m net assets, should be worth that sum. We add £5m for other Kebbell family assets.
47=. Hitesh & Dilesh Mehta (2/9/56 & 29/2/60), perfumes, £55m
The Mehta family, led by Hitesh and Dilesh, own Shaneel Enterprises, a Watford-based perfume and fragrance operation. The business, best known for its Designer Parfums brand, saw its profits dip in 2015-16 to £6.1m on £92.7m sales. But with £36m net assets, it is worth £50m. We add £5m for past dividends and property. They also own and run perfumeshopping.com, which sells perfume over the internet.
50. Linda Ashley (7/6/66), property, £50m
Swedish-born Linda Ashley is the ex-wife of Mike Ashley, the sportswear billionaire who also owns Newcastle United. It was reported in late 2016 that the pair had re-kindled their relationship after a 14-year break and that Linda was selling her Majorcan villa set in a 4.5 acre plot on the south west of the island.
A property developer in her own right, she has stakes in several small businesses including Watford-based Current Design and with a divorce settlement is worth at least £50m. We keep her separate from Mike until we see more of the happy couple together.