Wealth of richest 1,000 Britons 'rises 15% in year'

LONDON (AFP) - Britain's 1,000 richest people have enjoyed a "phenomenal" increase of 15 per cent in their wealth in the past year, according to The Sunday Times newspaper's annual Rich List.

Together they are worth 518.975 billion pounds (S$1 trillion), an increase of 15.4 per cent on last year's total of 449.654 billion pounds.

Even accounting for inflation, this is well above the 412.846 billion pounds recorded before the financial crisis began in 2008.

"I've never seen such a phenomenal rise in personal wealth," said Philip Beresford, who has compiled the list since 1989.

He added: "While some may criticise them, many of these people are at the heart of the economy, and their success brings more jobs and more wealth for the country."

The richest 1,000 people now own the equivalent of a third of Britain's gross domestic product. The country now has 104 sterling billionaires.

The Bank of England said this week that the British economy was heading "back towards normal" following the recession, and after six years of falling wages, average pay has finally caught up with inflation.

However, the 1.7 per cent annual growth in average weekly wages recorded by the Office for National Statistics is well below the growth enjoyed by the richest in society.

The list is based on identifiable wealth including land, property and shares, but excludes bank accounts.

Gopichand and Srichand Hinduja, brothers of Indian origin, replaced Uzbek-born Russian business magnate Alisher Usmanov as the richest in Britain.

The London-based Hindujas, entrepreneurs who co-chair the multinational Hinduja Group conglomerate, are worth 11.9 billion pounds.

The richest Briton is Gerald Grosvenor, the Duke of Westminster, who owns much of central London's prime real estate. He was 10th on the list with 8.5 billion pounds.

Only 11 of the richest 30 are British. Others include Topshop owner Philip Green (3.9 billion pounds), Sports Direct and Newcastle United Football Club tycoon Mike Ashley (3.8 billion pounds), Virgin boss Richard Branson (3.6 billion pounds), engineer James Dyson (3 billion pounds) and motor racing boss Bernie Ecclestone (3 billion pounds).

Queen Elizabeth II came 285th on the list, now with a personal wealth - as apart from that tied to the crown - of 330 million pounds.

"The queen's investment portfolio, consisting largely of blue-chip British companies' shares, should have grown to 105 million pounds," the Rich List said.

"With rising land and estate prices, we add 10 milion pounds to last year's figure for personal property such as Sandringham and Balmoral.

"Her personal art is worth just 2 million pounds. Adding the royal stamp collection, jewels, cars, horses and the Queen Mother's legacy take the queen to 330 million pounds."

She is the 39th richest woman in her kingdom.

There are more women than ever on the list (114). However, Harry Potter author J. K. Rowling (570 million pounds) and Jimmy Choo fashion house founder Tamara Mellon (180 million pounds) remain the only women who have made a vast fortune in their own right.

Britain's wealthiest rock star fortunes are those of Paul McCartney and his wife Nancy Shevell (710 million pounds), U2 (428 million pounds), Elton John (260 million pounds) and Mick Jagger (215 million pounds).

Lower on the list were Sting (180 million pounds), Ringo Starr (170 million pounds), Roger Waters (160 million pounds), Eric Clapton (150 million pounds), David Bowie (135 million pounds) and Robbie Williams (120 million pounds).

Adele is the wealthiest young musician, with a 45 million pounds fortune.

Football icon David Beckham and his Spice Girls singer wife Victoria are worth a joint 210 million pounds, while Manchester United footballer Wayne Rooney and his wife Coleen are worth 74 million pounds.

In the list of wealthy people aged under 30, Rooney was eighth, directly ahead of Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton (68 million pounds), Harry Potter actor Daniel Radcliffe (66 million pounds), and Hollywood heartthrob Robert Pattinson (60 million pounds).

Others in the young top 40 were Wimbledon tennis champion Andy Murray (40 million pounds), basketball star Luol Deng (36 million pounds), golfer Rory McIlroy (28 million pounds), and the members of boyband One Direction, with 14 million pounds each.

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