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Moneysupermarket Tycoon Finds Britain Taxing

(c) Sky News 2012

The founder of Moneysupermarket (Berlin: 39M.BE - news) .com, the price comparison website, is undertaking some financial planning of his own as he plots a move offshore to preserve his vast fortune.

I have learned that Simon Nixon, one of Britain's most prominent entrepreneurs, is to relocate to Jersey in an attempt to reduce his tax bill. People close to Mr Nixon, who is now the deputy chairman of Moneysupermarket, said the move would save him millions of pounds annually in tax on dividends alone.

Mr Nixon's move to Jersey will place him in the ranks of a growing group of British businesspeople who have moved offshore for tax reasons in recent years. Guy Hands, the private equity tycoon who once owned EMI, the music company, now bases himself in Guernsey. Peter Wood, the founder of Esure and Direct Line, is – as Sky News revealed last month – also examining a move to Jersey.

The continuing exodus of entrepreneurs is likely to worry George Osborne, the Chancellor, ahead of his autumn statement next month, in which he is under pressure to set out new measures to encourage wealth creators to invest in Britain.

Mr Osborne announced in his Budget last March that the 50p top rate of income tax would be cut to 45p next year, a move that was aimed at stemming the departure of high-earners.

Mr Nixon's move also comes at a time of broader debate about the tax planning of major companies which operate in Britain. In recent weeks, overseas-based multinationals including Amazon, Google (NasdaqGS: GOOG - news) and Starbucks (NasdaqGS: SBUX - news) have been criticised for seeking to minimise corporation tax bills in the UK.

A friend of Mr Nixon said that he had created substantial wealth and employment in Britain and that his relocation to Jersey was "something he has decided with a heavy heart".

The Moneysupermarket founder is understood to have been deliberating over a decision to move offshore for several years, and has told colleagues that he believes his tax bill is unjustifiable. The dotcom founder is understood to have been renting a property in Jersey as he looks for a home to buy.

Mr Nixon owns just under 50% of Moneysupermarket, having sold £10m-worth of shares in September to qualify for entrepreneur's tax relief. His shareholding was also diluted this year by the issuance of new equity to pay for MoneySavingExpert, the site founded by the journalist and campaigner Martin Lewis.

Moneysupermarket, which is headquartered in north Wales, has grown rapidly as tough economic times have prompted millions of Britons to run their household finances more efficiently.

The company said on Wednesday that revenue during the opening weeks of the fourth quarter was up about 20% on the same period last year, or 15% excluding MoneySavingExpert.

Launched in 1999, Moneysupermarket is now the largest price comparison operation in Britain, with a market share of almost 50% as measured by visitors to its insurance and money sections.

At today's closing share price, Moneysupermarket was worth £819m, making Mr Nixon's shareholding worth in the region of £400m.

Moneysupermarket said that its founder's domicile was a personal matter for Mr Nixon, who could not be reached for comment.