Much of the Leavesley family wealth comes from property – in particular a hefty stake in Simon Clarke’s St. Modwen Group, which has taken a recession-fuelled financial hit over the last year or so.

But Jim Leavesley believes in spreading risk so he has plenty of other interests, including military surplus, salvage and farming.

A recent piece of business for the Leavesley empire – which traces its roots back to the First World War – was the breaking up of HMS Intrepid, a Royal Navy ship which played a major role in the Falklands conflict. It was the first Royal Navy vessel to be broken up under DEFRA’s guidelines on recycling. Some 95 per cent of the ship is being recycled. Leavesley is also breaking up Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship Grey Rover at Canada Dock in Liverpool

The Burton-based Leavesley Group has been buying and selling military surplus for many years.

The company was started by Jim Leavesley’s father James Thomas Leavesley in 1919.

Now it lists the United Nations, the UK Defence Export Services Organisation and the Swedish Armed Forces among its clients.

Some of the Leavesley bargains on offer include eight 43000kg mobile freight scanners complete with X-ray equipment.

The group is involved in many other activities, including container hire and retail sales of workshop equipment, tools and furniture as well as commercial vehicle sales. Two divisions of the group – Branston Investments and St Mary’s Investments are involved in property management, and have a significant portfolio of commercial properties and industrial parks throughout the UK. In addition Genesis Quality Assurance and Integra carry out compliance audits for the agriculture and food industries.

The Leavesley family stake in the St Modwen property business is worth around than £100 million.

In addition, Jim Leavesley has sold a shareholding in Dunstall-based Northern Racing which owns several racecourses around the country.

Jim Leavesley, who is 79 and chairman of the Leavesley Group, is also a pig farmer.