2015: No.3 - £1bn
2014: No.4 - £850m
When your main business is dependent on the weather, performance is always going to have its ups and downs .
So it is with the Andrew Sykes Group, the Wolverhampton-based air conditioning and heating hire firm largely owned by the oldest entrant in our Rich List, 95-year-old Jacques Gaston Murray .
The company continues to put in solid results and is worth well over £300 million. Turnover in 2013 was up £3 million to £61.1 million. Pre-tax profits were up slightly to £15 million. This was all the more impressive because the company’s 2012 figures were boosted by contracts from the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Subsidiaries in Belgium and Italy contributed to the improved performance.
The first half of 2014 saw a small decline in fortunes thanks to an unseasonably mild winter in the UK and the Netherlands which hit the firm’s heating business and offset improvements in the air conditioning sector.
Despite these challenges the firm continues to invest and spent £1.7 million on new plant, equipment and hire stock in the first half of the year. In addition the company has just opened a new depot in Paris , the city of Jacques Gaston Murray’s birth.
Jacques Murray puts the company’s success down to its policy of reducing its reliance on its traditional core products and services, together with an increase in non-seasonal business and investment in new technically advanced and environmentally friendly products.
The company has expanded its overseas operations across Europe and the Middle East, providing platforms for future expansion.
Despite being 95, Jacques Gaston Murray shows little sign of slowing down. His other main business is West Yorkshire-based London Security plc, one of Europe’s leading fire protection businesses, of which he owns 98 per cent.
The family also has six hotels worth £310 million including the 431 bedroom Grand Beach Hotel in Miami Beach.
He has been a British national since just after the Second World War. He studied architecture at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and was called up in 1940. When France surrendered to Germany he made his way to England where he joined the Royal Air Force, flying 38 missions as a navigator. He was awarded the French Legion of Honour .
After the war – during which his father died in Auschwitz - he returned to France, but came back to England 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.
The Andrews Sykes Group was formed in 1857 and has well over 30,000 customers.
As well as these businesses, the Murray family has a property portfolio and other assets .