In the first half of 2020, the gap between the super-rich and the rest of us grow ever wider as tech billionaires such as Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk saw share prices soar during lockdown.
But while the American super-rich have become household names, Britain’s Top 5 billionaires have remained comparatively under the radar.
Sir James Dyson has clearly benefitted from months of lockdown. With all of us washing our hands a lot more and sweltering through an intense heatwave in our homes, the Brexit-backing manufacture of hand dryers and high-tech fans has seen his family fortune soar by £3.6 billion to £16.2 billion this year.
That’s despite the fact that his eagerly-anticipated Dyson car – a seven-seater, all electric SUV codenamed N526 – has been scrapped, a decision that has reportedly cost Dyson some £500m of his own money.
The Hinduja brothers, Srichand and Gopichand, have had a bad lockdown. A coronavirus-driven crash in the Indian stock market, where the family have considerable holdings, saw them lose some £6 billion over the past year.
Still, with some £16billion left in the family coffers, the brothers who are currently converting the old War Office building into a luxury hotel complex should be able to manage for a little while yet.
David and Simon Reuben, who have spent much of 2020 trying to negotiate a stake in Newcastle United, began as north London metal traders.
Since then they have invested in property and technology companies and built a £16billion fortune. It was closer to £19billion before lockdown made a serious dent in their balance sheet but their enviable collection of yachts and private jets is probably some form of consolation.
Sir Leonard Blavatnik has had a very good 2020.
Despite frustration for Dazn, his planned “Netflix of sport” streaming service which was derailed after virtually every sports event was cancelled or postponed in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, the media tycoon has managed to increase his net worth by an estimated £1.4billionn this year.
The record label Blavatnik bought for $3.3billion in 2011, Warner Music, has doubled its value since then thanks to a resurgence in the value of the music business. last year he was ranked at No. 31 on a worldwide rich list, and he sits at the Sunday Times’s UK-based Rich List at No.4.
His nearly £16billion fortune has been slightly dented by sizeable charitable donations in the past couple of years – including a record $200m to Harvard Medical School – but he retains a sizeable property portfolio with hotels in Hollywood, Miami Beach and Cap-Ferrat as well as the Ocean Club in the Bahamas.
Sir Jim Ratcliffe has had a turbulent year, with his Petroineos energy company applying for government loans totalling some £500m and his petrochemicals group Ineos being downgraded by the influential Moody’s credit reference agency.
But Ineos is enjoying a new, higher national profile after taking over Sky’s competitive cycling team and using its vans to deliver a million bottles of hand sanitiser to free hospitals in the UK every month.
Under his guidance Ineos has avoided getting into top-flight football in the UK, although he expressed an interest in buying Chelsea at one point.
“Ineos has always tried to take a sensible approach,” he told the Times in 2019. “We don’t like squandering money or we wouldn’t be where we are today. It’s part of our DNA, trying to spend sensibly.”
According to the Sunday Times the company’s value has dropped to around £20bn, leaving Sir Him with a total fortune of around £12 billion. Now based in Monaco, the sport-loving chemicals magnate retains a luxury home in the New Forest and owns two super yachts among his considerable holdings.
While Sir Jim, like many of Britain’s secret billionaires, remains a comparatively private person he looks forward to his company attaining a higher profile: “Everyone used to call Ineos the largest company you had never heard of,” he says. “But that’s changing…”