The Essex Life Richest 50
Finance expert and author of the Sunday Times Rich List, Philip Beresford, looks at our county’s entrepreneurs and reveals The Essex Life Richest 50
Meet our wealthiest millionaires
Our county’s top 50 most wealthy entrepreneurs, celebrities and business leaders now have a collective worth of £13.586bn in this the 15th Essex Life Richest 50 a new record. Yet while it seems that the only way is Essex to make money, the brutal truth is that the growth of these fortunes is slowing dramatically. In 2017 we saw a record 23.5% gain in the collective total of our then Richest 50, but this year the growth above last year’s total of £13.47bn is under 1% (0.86% to be precise).
While property tycoon and TV celebrity Lord Sugar returns to our number one slot with a £1.3bn fortune, we have lost one billionaire this year, as serviced office king Mark Dixon has seen his wealth drop to £885m from £1.02bn last year. Our bottom line too has dropped from last year’s £66m to £60m, reflecting the uncertainty in the economy in the shadow of Brexit.
On a cheerier note, still the most striking aspect of the 50 names that follow is just how many of these fortunes are self-made by people who often came from very humble backgrounds. Just two of our names in this year’s list inherited their money, half last year’s total. It is also easily the lowest proportion of inherited wealth in a regional list of this kind in the 30 years that such lists have been compiled.
Many of our entrepreneurs who have made hefty fortunes started out in humble roles. Ray O’Rourke worked as a ‘pony boy’, pulling carts in and out of tunnels during the building of London Underground’s Victoria Line in the late 1960s, while Simon Dolan was expelled from Chelmsford Grammar School at 16 and later went to work on the local market, which served him well in sharpening his business skills for later life. Graham Peacock started working in petrol stations in his late teens, but did not start his own business until he was in his 40s, proving that it is never too late to become an entrepreneur.
It proves there is more than a whiff of truth in the idea that Essex is a county of go-getters who strive to forge their own futures. And we find this entrepreneurial wizardry across the county, with no one town dominating our list. This year there are five entries from Rainham, four from Brentwood, three from Epping with two each from Colchester, Chelmsford, Southend and Stansted.
We also have more than our fair share of celebrity. Aside from number one Lord Sugar there is of course Leystonstone-born David Beckham and his Harlow-born wife Victoria, who continue to amass wealth on the back of lucrative sponsorship deals. Meanwhile, Epping Forest resident Sir Rod Stewart may be having trouble selling one of his Essex properties, but he still wows his fans on his tours.
Proximity to London and its financial services industry has always been a boon for the Essex economy. But equally importantly is the sheer diversity of the local economy. There are 15 of our 50 in construction and property, another nine in retailing, with seven in both low tech and high tech industry.
This year we have seven women in the list, including petrol queen, Susan Tobbell, worth a cool £200m. This is two higher than last year and a new record, but we still have a long way to go before the glass ceiling is truly shattered.
Similarly, six members of the extraordinarily entrepreneurial Asian community make it into the ranks of the Richest 50, the same as last year. Watch out for the Patel brothers, whose uncanny ability to build pharma companies has earned them a fast-expanding £800m fortune.
We watch with interest what effect the long drawn-out battle over Brexit will have for fortunes of the county’s wealthiest people next year, but as people with track records of fighting adversity and grasping opportunities, you should think twice before betting against our entrepreneurs and business leaders!
RULES OF ENGAGEMENT
To qualify for the Essex Life Richest 50 is no simple matter. An individual must either work, live or be born in the area or have a substantial presence in the county. Their wealth is assessed on land holdings, shares in quoted or private companies and any sale proceeds from company sales. Quoted company stakes were valued at the end of August 2018. Private companies are generally valued at about ten times their latest profit figures, depending on the financial health of the operation. We have no access to detailed personal financial records, such as bank accounts or the like, so make no allowance for these.