Billionaire James Dyson switches residency back to UK from Singapore

Mr James Dyson had faced criticism from British lawmakers for relocating his company's head office to Singapore.
Mr James Dyson had faced criticism from British lawmakers for relocating his company's head office to Singapore.PHOTO: DYSON

LONDON (BLOOMBERG) - British inventor James Dyson has switched his residency from Singapore to Britain, reversing a move he made about two years ago after his technology firm revealed plans to relocate its headquarters to the city-state.

Mr Dyson, 73, now primarily lives in Britain, according to filings for companies the billionaire controls, including his family office Weybourne.

Similar filings cited Singapore for the entrepreneur's residency in 2019, after his company said it would move its head office there as the maker of bagless vacuum cleaners focused increasingly on South-east Asia.

"We do not comment on private family matters and nothing has changed in respect of the company," a Dyson spokesman said. "The structure of the group and the business rationale underpinning it are unaltered."

Mr Dyson, a prominent Brexit supporter who is worth US$29 billion (S$38.5 billion), faced criticism from British lawmakers for relocating his company.

Now, he is at the centre of another controversy after he texted Prime Minister Boris Johnson in March 2020 to get assurance that his staff would not face a change in their tax situation if they came to the British to help make ventilators in response to Covid-19, according to a BBC report.

The billionaire wrote to the British Treasury, but then contacted Mr Johnson, sparking concern over whether the Prime Minister followed procedures to disclose the messages. Mr Johnson was forced to defend his actions in Parliament on Wednesday (April 21).

"I make absolutely no apology at all for shifting heaven and earth and doing everything I possibly could as I think any prime minister would in those circumstances," he said during the Prime Minister's Questions session.

Mr Dyson said in a statement on Wednesday that it was Mr Johnson who initiated contact last year at a time of "national crisis". The ventilator project cost his company about £20 million (S$37 million), required staff from Singapore and Britain to work round the clock, and that their exchanges were disclosed at the time to British officials.

"It is absurd to suggest that the urgent correspondence was anything other than seeking compliance with rules," he stated. "Neither Dyson nor Weybourne sought or received any benefit from the emergency ventilator."

Mr Dyson has bolstered his presence in Singapore in the past two years, liquidating British companies and hiring staff in Singapore for his family office. He paid about US$54 million in 2019 to acquire a three-storey Wallich Residence penthouse in Singapore but sold it at a loss late last year.

He still has extensive holdings in Britain, with his agricultural firm overseeing 257ha of woodland and about 150 homes. He also owns a country estate in south-west England.

Mr James Dyson sold the Wallich Residence penthouse in Singapore at a loss late last year. PHOTO: GUOCOLAND SINGAPORE

The firm previously said it intends to hire more than 2,000 people in South-east Asia over the coming years but said in July it will cut 900 of its 14,000 jobs globally because of the pandemic.

The company said this month it will "shortly" move into a new global headquarters at an old power station in Singapore.

Dyson will soon be moving to St James Power Station at Sentosa Gateway. ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID