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The Rich List 2017 reflects much investment from the Chinese

Chinese investment in the West Midlands brings a new focus to this year's Birmingham Post Rich List - which is £8 billion more wealthy than 2016 

This year's Birmingham Post Rich List has a distinctly oriental feel.

Time was when supermarket supremo Woon Wing Yip was the only Chinese representative in our list, but in the last year that has changed dramatically.

The influx of massive Chinese investment into the region's four major football clubs is reflected in our 2017 roll call of the Midlands' wealthy.

It means we have a new number one.

Guo Guangchang, the new owner of Wolves
Guo Guangchang, the new owner of Wolves

Guo Guangchang, boss of the massive Fosun International Group - and new owner of Wolverhampton Wanderers Football Club - tops the list with a fortune of £4.2 billion.

His business has investments in everything from Silver Cross prams to Club Med holidays - and now he's added Wolves to the list.

A second Chinese billionaire, Guochuan Lai, enters the list in third place after his takeover of West Bromwich Albion.

Meanwhile Aston Villa's new owner, Dr Tony Xia of the Recon Group comes in at number six.

Birmingham City's long running ownership saga came to an end with an agreement with Hong Kong-based Trillion Trophy Asia, and Trillion's owner Paul Suen Ho Chung is listed at 15.

Guochuan Lai, West Bromwich Albion owner
Guochuan Lai, West Bromwich Albion owner

All this Chinese investment is very welcome to the region, and it brings badly-needed money and stability to our football clubs.

However, the perfunctory sacking of Gary Rowett at Blues delivers a salutary lesson.

China is a nation of gamblers, and all gamblers like to win.

If our clubs don't deliver results they may find Chinese patience running rather thin.

Elsewhere the picture is tinged with uncertainty.

The Brexit vote has emphasised what a divided nation we are and business is no different.

One man's fear is another's opportunity and financial planning has become a game of guesswork.

When it comes to cash projections, a crystal ball would be more useful than a spreadsheet.

But, for our richest of the rich, things look pretty good.

Most have increased their fortunes, or at least maintained their bank balances and investments in good shape.

Graham Young Gusto and the Alchemist on Colmore Row
Gusto and the Alchemist at The Grand Hotel on Colmore Row owned by Hortons' Estate

The property market continues to perform well, and property developers and investors in our annual list of the richest West Midlanders have found themselves with increasing fortunes, underpinned by fast-growing property portfolios and land bank values.

For manufacturers it's a different story.

While the weak pound is helping exporters, imported components are getting more expensive.

The previously buoyant economies of China, India and Brazil, Russian sanctions and sluggish economies in Europe have failed to show any sign of recovery.

Demand is down and the reduction in schedules by the OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) is rippling through the supply chain.

The amassed total fortunes of our richest 50 have grown considerably this year.

The 2017 total wealth adds up to £24.962 billion compared with £16,963 billion in 2016.

This is due in large part to the effect of Chinese investment, but also results from improvements in the fortunes of those involved in property and development.

We have five billionaires in the region, including the oldest person on our list – 97 year-old air-conditioning billionaire Jacques Gaston Murray, who still plays an active role in his companies.

Three of the top five on our list are manufacturers - appropriate for the manufacturing heart of the country, and manufacturing is well represented elsewhere in the list.

The entry price for making the list has also risen this year.

You’ll need a personal fortune of at least £80 million to qualify for a place, beating last year's total of £65 million.

Sunny Gill City of Birmingham basketball player Hakeem Olajuwon
City of Birmingham basketball player Hakeem Olajuwon

Once again we have some new faces in the list, including basketball genius Hakeem Olajuwon who has chosen to make Birmingham his home, outdoor clothing magnate Mark Neale who founded Mountain Warehouse, and credit providers Anthony and Graham Coombs.

Ex-Pink Floyd drummer and Ferrari collector Nick Mason also makes the list, joining Ozzy Osbourne, Robert Plant and Jeff Lynne representing the music business.

Many on our list have made their money through property – either building it or investing in it.

They were probably the biggest losers of the recession, but, as property values climb to exceed pre-recession levels, they are doing well again.

Simon Clarke, Lord Edmiston, Caspar McDonald-Hall, Tony Gallagher and Roy Richardson are all benefiting from the property boom.

Fig and Favour in Hagley
Fig and Favour in Hagley

Food continues to be well-represented, led by the Boparan Singh’s whose 2Sisters food group has had its challenges but still grows.

Tony Deep Wouhra, Woon Wing Yip and Peter Blakemore continue to keep the food flag flying, joined by Mark Neale's Hagley-based Fig & Favour.

A brief word about the rules of engagement...

The Birmingham Post Rich List is geographically focused on the West Midlands, concentrating on the area covered by our three Local Enterprise Partnerships: the Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP which also covers a large part of Staffordshire and parts of Worcestershire, the Black Country LEP and the Coventry and Warwickshire LEP.

The 50 multi-millionaires on our 2017 list all either live, work or make a significant economic or cultural contribution to the areas covered by these three LEPs.

We continue to put an emphasis on fortunes that are used to benefit or enrich the West Midlands and its immediate area.

In assessing who goes into the list and who stays out there is inevitably some subjectivity involved, and we can only work from publicly available information.

We have no idea how much is stuffed under mattresses or hidden in Panamanian bank accounts.

We looked at the personal wealth, property interests, shareholdings, company valuations, asset valuations, liabilities, and other known wealth of people who either live and/or work in the areas covered by the three Local Enterprise Partnerships in our region, or were brought up here, or who have significant business interests here.

We took longevity and commitment to the economic wealth of the region into account.

Birmingham Post Rich List 2017 sponsored by UBS

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