The combined wealth of the richest people in the Midlands has increased by almost £8 billion – with the four Chinese businessmen who have taken over the major football clubs boosting fortunes, and taking the number one ranking.
This year’s Birmingham Post Rich List reveals that the total fortunes of the region’s richest – featuring five billionaires and 45 multi millionaires – has grown from £16,963 billion last year to £24,962 billion in 2017 – despite the uncertainty over Brexit.
The Midlands’ richest 2017 billionaire is Wolves owner Guo Guangchang, who has a £4.2 billion fortune – knocking last year’s number one, JCB Chairman Lord Bamford, down to number two, despite his wealth increasing to £3.3 billion (up from £3 billion last year).
Mr Guangchang is one of nine new entries, which include the three other Chinese businessmen who also own Midland football clubs – Guochuan Lai, who has taken over West Bromwich Albion (No 3 worth £2.8 billion) ; Aston Villa’s Dr Tony Xia (No 6 worth £990 million); and Paul Suen Cho Hung who owns Birmingham City (No 15 worth £450 million).
Mountain Warehouse outdoor clothing magnate Mark Neale, who lives in Worcestershire, has also made it on to the list for the first time, with a £170 million fortune and Rich List ranking of 26.
He is joined by Rich List first timer, US basketball hero Hakeem Olajuwon, who has recently moved to the region and coaches in Nechells with a wealth of £150 million and ranking of 30.
Another new entry at number 30 is twins Anthony and Graham Coombs and family who have a £150 million stake in the Solihull-based credit finance firm S&U.
Ex-Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason, who was born in Edgbaston, is the final newcomer thanks to his classic car collection – which includes a Ferrari 250 GTO worth £20 million – and is placed at number 50 with £80 million.
In line with last year, there are no independent women entries – although two women are included with their spouse business partners (Ranjit Boparan with husband Baljinder and Linda Leaver with husband Andrew).
Overall this year’s Rich List shows that the property market continues to perform well with the likes of Tony Gallagher (No 10 worth £600 million) and Peter Horton and family of Hortons’ Estate (No 29 worth £55 million) remaining among the Midlands most wealthy.
Meanwhile manufacturing has seen a different story with fortunes slipping for the likes of Lord Paul, who founded the Caparo Group, from £1.2 billion to £800 million (No 8, previously No 2).
Yet three of the top five entries on the Rich List are manufacturers, including the oldest – 97 year-old Jacques Gaston Murray (No 5 worth £1.1 billion) – and the industry is represented well throughout the top 50.
Food entries are also well-represented, including: the Boparan Singh’s with their 2 Sisters group (Number 7 worth £850 million); Woon Wing Yip, who owns the Wing Yip oriental superstore business (No 40 worth £110 million); and Tony Deep Wouhra, who founded Indian foods supplier East End Foods (No 49 worth £82 million).
In line with the greater amount of wealth among our richest, the entry price for making the list has also risen.
This year you needed a minimum of £80 million – up from £65 million last year.
Paul Faulkner, Chief Executive of Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce, said: “Football clubs in the West Midlands do make a huge contribution to the regional economy, as I well know from my time at Aston Villa, so we should welcome the investment from the Chinese.
“This is also a reflection of the globalisation of the West Midlands generally with the wealth of the region increasingly reliant on exports and imports – including football clubs.
“It’s imperative that we respond to this globalisation and the Chamber’s recently launched International Business Hub is working hard to ensure this happens.”
Sara Fowler, EY’s senior partner in the Midlands and West Midlands CBI Chair, said: “The Rich List reflects the strength of the region’s economy, which has fared well with strong economic performance in recent times, according to EY’s latest economic forecast.
“Looking ahead, no area of the UK will be immune to the economic downgrades we expect to see leading up to 2019.
“The onus is therefore on the region’s entrepreneurs and businesses to adapt to the slowing economy in traditional markets by seeking opportunities overseas.
“Manufacturing remains an important sector for the region along with the Food and Drink sector as represented by businesses on the Rich List.
“The CBI has said that it will ensure that the economic case for these and other sectors is heard loud and clear in the UK and Europe throughout Brexit negotiations.”