The richest people in Britain have seen their fortunes soar by a fifth in the past year even as much of the UK is struggling to recover from the recession.
The 2011 Sunday Times Rich List, published this weekend, reveals that the 1,000 wealthiest people in the country are now worth a combined £395.8 billion, equivalent to more than a third of the national debt.
The number of billionaires has risen from 53 to 73, while nine people have seen their fortunes rise by £1 billion or more during the past 12 months alone.
The soaring fortunes of Britain's wealthiest men and women have put them within striking distance of the pre-recession boom in 2008, when there were 75 billionaires and the 1,000 wealthiest people were worth £413 billion.
Lakshmi Mittal, the steel tycoon, is again Britain’s richest man but, surprisingly, is also the biggest loser. The global financial crisis has seen his fortune fall by a fifth to £17 billion. Alisher Usmanov, the Russian mining magnate, has risen to become Britain’s second richest man after more than doubling his wealth to £12.4 billion.
His fellow countryman, Roman Abramovich, has slipped into third and is worth £10 billion. The Duke of Westminster, the wealthiest Britain, has fallen outside the top three for the first time since 1999 with a fortune of £7 billion.
As the “squeezed middle classes” struggle to cope with the aftermath of the recession, City bankers, financiers and hedge fund managers have seen their fortunes rise following the taxpayer-funded bailout. There are now 55 hedge fund managers and commodity traders in the top 1,000, worth a total of £12.6 billion.
They are topped by Robert Miller, worth £1 billion, who made a fortune from duty-free shopping before establishing a Hong Kong based hedge fund with $2 billion under management. Nat Rothschild, 39, has seen his net worth soar to dwarf that of his father Jacob, Lord Rothschild, and is also worth £1 billion.
Roger Jenkins, the former chief executive of Barclay’s private equity, is Britain’s richest banker with a £150 million fortune. A total of 180 people on the list made their fortune through finance, compared to 198 through property and 125 in industry.
The recession has also brought opportunity for the owners of discount stores, six of whom now have fortunes of more than £100 million. They include Simon, Bobby and Robin Arora, whose B&M Bargains chain specialises in selling branded goods at cheap prices. They have seen a six-fold rise in their combined worth to £298 million.
The list also contains a record number of women. For the first time since its launch there are more than 100 women in the top 1,000, including Dame Mary Perkins, Britain’s first self-made billionairess. She (SNP: ^SHEY - news) made her fortune after building up the Specsavers opticians’ chain with her husband. The 105 women on the list are worth a total of £45.2 billion.
Ten women have become millionaires from divorce. Slavica Ecclestone, the former wife of Bernie Ecclestone, the man who runs formula one, is one of Britain’s richest women with an estimated fortune of £743m. The former model, who was married to Mr Ecclestone for 24 years, is thought to be on good terms with her ex-husband.
Celebrities have also fared well. Jamie Oliver, the chef, has seen his fortune rise to £106 million following the success of his restaurants chains, books and television shows. Ricky Gervais, the comedian who earlier this year mocked claims he is worth more than £50 million, is in fact worth closer to £32 million.
Britain’s richest young people include Daniel Radcliffe, the Harry Potter star, whose fortune is valued at £48 million, Cheryl Cole, the X-factor presenter and pop star worth £12 million, and Adele, the singer-songwriter who is already worth £6 million.
New entrants include Jonathan Ive, the British designer behind Apple’s iPhone and iPad who is worth £80 million, and Christopher Nolan, the film director, is worth £70 million.