How many of the UK’s top twenty billionaires are self-made? None, some. We have looked at the most up to date information to bring you the answer plus some interesting insights:-

  • Gender split
  • Age
  • Origin
  • Where they choose to live
  • Family

For the purpose of this article, we are using the Cambridge dictionary definition of self-made, i.e. “rich and successful as a result of your own work and not because of family money”. Family money we are using a threshold that “the family” had a fortune or would have been judged as wealthy in their time, before the current billionaire. Affluence we are referring to the UK’s top twenty wealthiest billionaires as identifies in the Sunday Times rich list 2019.

What we are interested in is how did they establish their fortune? Was it solely by dint of their efforts or did they get a substantial leg up from a pre-existing family fortune? If they can do it, surely I can, can’t I? I am sure we have all heard these questions before, well could you or couldn’t you read on and find out are they self-made icons which can lead us to riches or did their wealth, or a good portion of it, drop in their lap.

For ease we have added a logo representing the sources of their billions: family money is indicated by this symbol:

: Family money

: Self-made

 

 

Srichand and Gopichand Hinduja

1First, we have Srichand and Gopichand Hinduja. Their wealth was estimated at £22bn in the Sunday Times rich list in 2019. They lead the Hinduja group with their two brothers Prakash and Ashok. The group was founded in India in 1914 by Paramanand Deepchand Hinduja, the brother’s father. So, while we can say that the most affluent brothers in the UK are exceptionally skilled businessmen, they are not self-made.

David and Simon Reuben

2Coming in a second are David and Simon Ruben, two more brothers born in Mumbai, India, their value was estimated at £18.7bn. The money has come from a range of endeavours including property, carpet manufacturing, aluminium production. While their family were comparatively well off, they started in business in the UK without massive resources. Shying from the limelight they are considered leading entrepreneurs and philanthropists in the UK. They are the first of the list to be considered self-made.

Sir Jim Ratcliffe

3Coming in third place down from first place last year is Sir Jim Ratcliffe with a fortune estimated at a cool £18.2bn Sir Jim is widely known as the funder of team INEOS, taking over the successful Sky cycling team. Before this, he had been considered rather publicity-shy. He is Chairman, CEO and majority shareholder in INEOS, the chemical conglomerate. Self-made or born rich? Sir Jim comes from humble beginnings his father a joiner, and his mother worked in accounts. His early years were spent in the North attending Grammar school in Beverley and graduating from Birmingham University. Sir Jim is truly a self-made icon.

Sir Len Blavatnik

4Coming in a creditable fourth place is Sir Leonard Blavantik with an estimated wealth of circa £14.5bn. He has made his fortune as one of the great deal makers of our times. Born in Ukraine, he was brought up north of Moscow. At the age of twenty-one, he left Russian and continued his education in the USA at Columbia University and the Harvard Business School. Working through his Access Industries organisation and also working with Mikhail Friedman he has generated a substantial fortune. He is a great benefactor to the arts, education and the Jewish community. Sir Len’s parents were academics and were by no means wealthy, Sir Len Blavatnik is genuinely a self -made billionaire.

Sir James Dyson

5With an estimated income, a shade under £13bn is one of our greatest indigenous tycoons. Predominantly known for the Dyson brand of household goods. Sir James was born in Norfolk in 1947, his father was a teacher, who tragically dies when Sir James was nine years old. He studied art, interior and furniture design until 1970. He later moved into engineering, in 1974 he came up with his original invention the “ball barrow” the rest, as they say, is history.

Kirsten and Jorn Rausing

6With a worth or around £12.3bn between them, the Rausing brother and sister were born in Sweden but choose to live in the UK. They are the grandchildren of Ruben Rausing founder of the Tetra Pak liquid packaging company whose cardboard container has become ubiquitous throughout the world and enabled perishable drinks to be packaged in cardboard. In addition to the packaging empire of which they are still part-owners, they have interests in online retailer Ocardo, international flavours & fragrances and horse breeding. The Rausing family have done well with the fortune opportunities they inherited carrying on a great business into its third generation. However, on the self-made scale, they don’t rate highly due to their significant financial start in life.

Charlene de Carvalho-Heineken and Michel de Carvalho

7Charlene de Carvalho-Heineken inherited a quarter stake in the Dutch brewing giant Heineken in 2002, it was then valued at around £3bn. She is an executive director of the company; her husband Michel de Carvalho is a director of Citibank and is also a member of the supervisory board of Heineken. They have built the value of their wealth considerably over the last seventeen years to an estimated £12bn. Having inherited such a large amount, it would be hard to conclude that the fortune is self-made. However, they have carried out the, not to easy trick, of hanging on to it and growing it.

Alisher Usmanov

8Alisher Usmanov was born in 1953 in Uzbekistan. He has a fortune reported to be in the region of £11.4bn. He has built his wealth through a variety of routes; fifty-five. Mr Usmanov was born with some advantages, the son of a state prosecutor. However, he was not born into great wealth and has had to take the opportunities that were afforded to him when they became available. Is he self-made? He has taken advantage of the chances he has had and occasionally paid the penalty, six years in prison.

Roman Abramovich

9Best known in the UK as the owner of Chelsea FC, the club has benefited substantially from his wealth. Mr Abramovich is reportedly worth a cool £11.2bn he has made his money in oil and industry through his investment vehicle Millhouse LLC. He was born in Lithuania, his father, Arkady Aron Abramovichwas, a state office manager. He was an orphan by four years of age and was raised by relatives in Russia. Known for his extravagance, he owns the second most expensive yacht in the world, as well as Chelsea FC. He is less well known for his philanthropy, he spent over £2bn in Chukotka alone. His history includes much political activity and a healthy relationship to Russian leaders both past and present this may have facilitated the growth of his fortune. Is he self-made? Again he has taken the opportunities that have been given to him and used them very effectively, yes he is self-made.

Mikhail Fridman

10Born in 1964, Mikhail Fridman is currently worth in the region of £11bn. He is of Ukrainian extraction and holds Israeli citizenship and lives in London. His wealth comes from Banking, Industry and investments. His parents were engineers in defence manufacturing and members of the communist party. Educational he was disadvantaged because of his Jewish background being denied entry to the top Moscow college. However, he overcame prejudice graduating from the Moscow Institute of Steel and Alloys. He is a noted philanthropist giving generously to causes he supports including the Jewish community. Truly a self-made billionaire, no financial leg up indeed he started a window cleaning business to support himself through college.

 

 

 

Lakshmi Mittal

11Lakshmi Mittal, worth an estimated £10.7bn. He was born in 1950 an was educated in Calcutta, achieving a first-class degree. In the early sixties, his father became a partner in a steel factory. Later Lakshmi Mittal joined the family business. However, he diverted away, setting up his own business independently in Indonesia. This steel business is the sources of his riches. Not as clear cut as the other billionaires, our research indicates that he set up independently under his own steam, Yes we think he is self-made.

Anil Agarwal

12Anil Agarwal, a fortune of £10.6bn. He made his fortune in the mining industry. He was born in 1954 his father had a small business but was not what you would call wealthy. Anil Agarwal left education early had no University education. When he left school, he set up a small scrap business in Mumbai. In his early twenties, he moved into manufacturing and mining. The company developed over time become the success it is today.

Guy, George and Galen Jr Weston and family

13Guy, George and Galen Jr Weston and family. The brothers have a fortune of around £10.5bn, it has been built up over the years through inheritance and retailing. They own many brands that you are likely to know and probably shop at, these include:-

• Primark

• Selfridges

• Twinings

• Silver Spoon and the list goes on.

The company grew from a Canadian company started by their grandfather George Weston in 1882. They have done a great job of increasing and consolidating the family fortune. They certainly had a “leg-up” in life

The Duke of Westminster and the Grosvenor family

14The Duke of Westminster and the Grosvenor family. One of the most well known and established families in the country. The fortune is currently thought to be around £10.1bn. The wealth has been acquired through inheritance in particular large swaths of London property. The current Duke is the youngest Billionaire in the list he inherited when only twenty-five. The family fortunes have grown over many generations, they have genuinely been given a leg-up.

Ernesto and Kirsty Bertarelli

15Ernesto and Kirsty Bertarelli-. Now the fortunes drop below that threshold of10bn. The Bertarellis are purported to be worth a mere £9.7bn. The family fortune is founded on Pharmaceutical and inheritance. Ernesto Bertarelli’s grandfather and father were both involved in the running of the business which was left to Ernesto. He started running the business when only thirty-one, after the death of his father. He has built a successful portfolio of business over the years. He has proved himself to be a competent businessman. Is he self-made? No, he was definitely given a leg up in life.

Hans Rausing and family

16Hans Rausing and family. Hans Rausing is another billionaire product of the Tetrapak group. The fortune was created through packaging and inheritance. Hans Rausing sold up and made a vast fortune. Unfortunately, Mr Rausing died this year at the ripe old age of ninety-three. He was given a substantial head start in life a generous leg-up. Not one of our self-make billionaires.

Sir David and Sir Frederick Barclay

17Sir David and Sir Frederick Barclay. The Barclay twins have an estimated fortune of £8.0bn. Their wealth stems from media, property and internet retailing. They were born in 1934 to a Scottish couple. Their father was a travelling salesman, he died when they were only twelve years old. They had a variety of businesses when young and had a brush with bankruptcy. However, they persevered and became media moguls. They are a great example of self-made tycoons.

John Fredriksen and Family

18John Fredriksen and family. John Frederickson has a fortune of about £7.5bn, this comes from shipping, particularly oil tankers he has the largest fleet of tankers in the world. He is also involved in offshore oil and fish-farming. Born to a modest background, his father was a welder. He went into business when he was twenty-seven. He has two twin daughters, who are thought to be preparing to run the business. John Fredriksen is a self-made businessman, no leg-up required.

Denise, John and Peter Coates

19Denise, John and Peter Coates. The Coates’s own global gambling giant Bet365. The driving force behind the business if Denise Coates. Denise’s father Peter Coates built up a variety of business intereste=s over the years. Denise founded Bet365 she raised finance of £15m against the family bookmaker portfolio. She built the business over the years into the most prominent online gambling chain in the world. Is she self-made, this is a hard one, though not as clear cut as without other billionaires it is clear that Denise Coates had clear advantages through the business built by her father. She did have a leg-up, although she has made the effective use of the resources at her disposal.

Earl Cadogan and Family

20Earl Cadogan and family. The Cadogan family have a wealth of £6.9bn. Like the Duke of Westminster, the family wealth is based principally on property in their case ninety or so acres in Chelsea, London. While they have developed the property, they are another example of a family whose wealth s come from previous generations. They are not self-made.

Infographic Top 20 UK Billionaires

 

Key Insights:

How do you become a billionaire? The backstories of the people discussed tell an intriguing story. Seven out of ten billionaires included in the Sunday Times Rich list 2019 are self-made, from a wide range of sources. This equates to a similar proportion of assets; sixty-eight per cent of the actual estimated wealth was also from those same self-made billionaires. Those billionaires that started off ahead of the game with a large inheritance, while not self-made, have had the wherewithal to substantially increase their family’s wealth. For those who believe in a more meritocratic society, it is good to know that most billionaires worked their way up if not from the bottom from a reasonably modest start.

Self-made or Given a Leg-up

From this snapshot of billionaire beginnings, we can see that around 70% are self-made, they have built huge businesses employing thousands of people starting from typically a quite modest background. From those, we have looked at that are self-made a disproportionately large percentage have suffered some form of tragedy in their early life, this may have contributed to their need and drive for success and security. Another factor that may have come into play is political turmoil, whether as a source of opportunity or another disturbing factor driving a need for success and the security it brings. It is notable the number of people from the old USSR and British India, typically having been in their childhood during the turbulent disassociation of both bodies.

The billionaires who have had a more privileged start in life have a different story. The indigenous billionaires that had a leg-up come from differing backgrounds. Two families are from the aristocracy; their money has been nurtured and maintained over generations based on property ownership. On the other hand, the Coates family would be considered “new money”, while we have categorised Denise Coates as having had a leg up in life, it is not of the same degree as many of our other billionaires, who mainly inherited billions and then built on it.

It is good to know that if you wish to be a billionaire, your best approach is to work at it. In fact, it is the only approach unless you are waiting for an inheritance. Unfortunately, it is unlikely that you or I will be in the fortunate position of having the right skill set for the right opportunity regardless of our desire and other attributes.

Where They Choose to Live

Our selection of the top twenty billionaires have a variety of nationalities, some have chosen to live in the UK some live in multiple countries, some it is questionable that they are even on the list. Fourteen live in mainland UK one in Cheshire, one Newmarket and the remaining twelve in London.

Gender and Billionairehood

There is a clear bias in the list towards male billionaires eighty per cent of our billionaires are male. Of the twenty per cent female billionaires, none are self-made, at least under the definition of self-made that we are using. So if you aspire to become a female billionaire, your best bets are to get a leg-up or marry in. Hopefully, this situation will be remedied in the future.

Family

The individuals we are considering here typically are part of a family group. However, the Rich List describes the people either as individuals or as families. For this article, we assume that the billionaires self-identify in this way (this may not be the case; we have not had access to the billionaires on the list to clarify).

It is notable that of the top twenty fifty-five per cent identify as part of a family. Presumably, they put their success and good fortune down in part to having the support of family around them. The other forty-five per cent identify as individuals and likely feel more self-contained and the sole author of their success.

To further any ambition of becoming a billionaire, it seems to be marginally more advantageous to be, and identify as, part of a family.

Age

The younger members of the list have been given a helping hand through family wealth or inheritance. Self-made billionaires have to wait for their wealth to build over their lifetime. To become a young billionaire you are best off being born to it or to look overseas to some of the younger media/ Tech-based billionaires.

 

Credits:

The Sunday Times: Rich List 2019
Wickipedia: various articles background reading
The Indian Express
Forbes

 

 

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