The value of the West Midlands’ 50 richest individuals rose by five per cent last year – but a lack of women has been deemed “unacceptable”.
The amassed fortunes of the 50 individuals making up the Birmingham Post Rich List totals £17.415 billion, up from £16.615 billion last year.
The 4.8 per cent rise suggests the growth in the region’s mega-rich slowed last year – as the net worth of the members of the exclusive club rose by close to 14 per cent in 2013.
Manufacturing and property continue to dominate the list.
There is, however, a notable exception – women. There are no independently-wealthy females on the list – an “unacceptable” position according to business and community leaders.
Jason Wouhra, regional chairman of the Institute of Directors, said the increasing wealth of the region’s mega-rich was good news for everyone as it meant more jobs and business investment.
Mr Wouhra, who is on the list thanks to his family-run business East End Foods, said: “If wealth is being created in the region that means jobs are being created and investment is going into businesses.
“The leader steers the ship but we are all on the same team. In Aston, we started from a standing start and we have created a £50 million business in three years. The people working in my team are benefiting from that as well – we have just given record pay increases.”
Lord Bamford, chairman of Staffordshire digger-maker JCB, founded by his father, heads this year’s Rich List with a fortune of £3 billion.
There are three billionaires on the list – the other two being engineering boss Lord Paul of Marylebone and Jaques Murray, also the owner of a manufacturing business.
Football is well represented on the list, with Aston Villa chairman Randy Lerner’s £950 million fortune earning him fourth place and Wolves’ Steve Morgan at seventh. Entertainers including Ozzy Osbourne (and family), Jeff Lynne and Robert Plant also feature.
But there is a notable lack of female entrepreneurs.
While Mr Wouhra said he did not believe quotas for women on company boards was the remedy, he accepted change was needed.
He said: “We would like to see more women in the boardrooms. We are seeing some progress – and hopefully that will mean some women in the Rich List in the short-term.
“We want to see things turning round on that front but we don’t think you need quotas for women on boards – or Indians, or black people.
Karl George, director at The Governance Forum, who headed up the Post’s Diversity In The Boardroom campaign, said the shortage of independent females on the Rich List was unacceptable.
He said: “This demonstrates the lack of diversity, and not just women but ethnic diversity as well.
“It is something that we should be addressing across the country because it demonstrates all the talent out there that we could be benefiting from.
“There is a whole range of talent which we are not tapping into.
“You have to make sure that people coming onto boards have the right skills, experience and competence, and I don’t think we should lower standards or be tokenistic. But We need to be able to look at the pipeline and make sure people can get into leadership positions.”
MP Gisela Stuart said she feared a lack of successful businesswomen on the Rich List would have a knock-on effect to young women in the city.
Ms Stuart (Lab Edgbaston) said: “This does worry me. It seems the higher you climb the fewer the women.
“We are making some progress in terms of the jobs in the NHS, for example, but in the city there seems a long way to go.”