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

Essex Life - - INSIDE -

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!


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.

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