26 Apr 2009

British billionaires lose big in recession

8:06 am on 26 April 2009

British-based steel magnate Lakshi Mittal leads the list of the country's billionaires who have lost the most in the economic downturn, seeing his wealth plummet 61%, according to a newspaper rich list.

Despite that, Mittal retained his place as the country's richest man with an estimated fortune of 10.8 billion pounds.

As the number of billionaires in the United Kingdom fell to 43 from 75 in a year, Mr Mittal's fortune slumped by some 17 billion pounds, the Sunday Times Rich List 2009 showed.

The country's richest 1,000 lost a total of 155 billion pounds last year, with steel and mining magnates among the worst hit.

Roman Abramovich, the Chelsea football club owner, who has steel and other investment interests, remained second with 7 billion pounds, down more than 40%.

The richest British-born billionaire, the Duke of Westminster, remained third on the list, with his largely property-based portfolio falling by a modest 7% to 6.5 billion pounds.

An influx of European and American bargain hunters, taking advantage of a weakened pound, helped boost the income of some retailers including Mohamed al-Fayed, owner of the luxury London store Harrods. His estimated fortune rose by 17 percent to 650 million pounds.

At the other end of the shopping experience, Ken Morrison, president of the supermarket Morrisons, saw his fortune rise 11 percent to 1.6 billion pounds.

Online betting also benefited, with Peter and Denise Coates, owners of the online sports betting Web site Bet365, seeing their wealth rise by 33% to 400 million pounds.

The annual list is based on identifiable wealth, including land, property and other items such as art, racehorses or significant shares in publicly quoted companies, but does not include bank accounts.