9 (6=) Jacques Gaston Murray £640m (£600m)

Jacques Gaston Murray celebrated his 87th birthday last year in style, on board a Caribbean cruise liner off Saint-Barthelemy.

And he had every cause to celebrate. He’ll be 88 soon and is the oldest executive chairman of a London-listed company.

In fact he’s chairman of two listed companies: West Yorkshire-based London Security plc, one of Europe’s leading fire protection businesses, and Wolverhampton-based heating and cooling company Andrews Sykes Group plc.

Despite his obviously Gallic name, he has been a British national since just after the Second World War. He was born in Paris and studied architecture at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. He was called up in 1940 and when France surrendered to Germany he made his way to England where he joined the Royal Air Force. He flew 38 missions as a navigator in 613 Squadron.

At the end of the war he returned to France, but came back to England shortly after to embark on a distinguished business career. His involvement with fire extinguishers began in 1961 when he invested in a business which became General-Incendie SA, one of France’s largest fire extinguisher companies.

He later invested in fire extinguisher manufacturer Nu-Swift and became chairman in 1982 and majority shareholder in 1984 when Nu-Swift acquired Associated Fire Protection Ltd, the owners of General-Incendie.

He is a 98.5 per cent shareholder in London Security plc, which turns over more than £65 million a year and makes consistent profits.

Gaston Murray is an 84.7 per cent shareholder in Wolverhampton heating equipment hire business Andrews Sykes Group. The company was formed in 1857 and has more than 30,000 customers in the UK, Europe and the Middle East.

The company’s results for the first half of 2007 showed a slight drop in pre-tax profits to £4.3 million from £4.8 million on a slightly reduced turnover of just over £27 million. The figures included administrative expenses and a pension curtailment charge.

Figures for the second half are expected to be at a broadly similar level to the previous year, despite lower temperatures affecting the business in the summer. The company’s pumps division continues to perform strongly.

The Murray family’s stakes in their business interests total around £300 million, with a further £340 million contribution from a profitable property portfolio and other assets. After serving with the RAF during the Second World War, Jacques Gaston Murray returned to his native France, but came back to England shortly after to embark on a distinguished business career