The combined wealth of the 1,000 richest men and women in Britain has risen to record levels in the past year, despite the country’s continuing economic slump.
Their total fortune has risen by just under five per cent since 2011, to £414 billion, according to the latest Sunday Times Rich List.
That exceeds the previous record of £412.8 billion set in 2008, which came just a few months before the financial crash from which the wider British economy has yet to recover.
Heading the list for the seventh year running is the steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal, although his wealth has fallen £4,814m to £12,700m, placing him just £385m ahead of Alisher Usmanov, whose Metalloinvest is Russia’s biggest iron ore producer.
Usmanov’s fortune has also fallen, in his case by £85m in the past year, in part because of charitable donations of £91m.
Third placed Roman Abramovich, the owner of Chelsea FC has seen his wealth fall by £800m to £9,500m.
But if the top three richest men in Britain have seen their fortunes slide, huge earnings elsewhere have fuelled this year’s record total wealth.
Efforts by hard-pressed families to make their wages go further during the economic downturn have boosted the fortunes of the owners of cut-price retail outlets.
Liverpool-based Tom Morris and family, who own the Home Bargains stores, have seen their fortune leap from £160m to £620m. The B&M Retail discount chain, also based in the north west, has contributed to a £144m increase in the wealth of its owners, Simon, Robin and Bobby Arora, taking them to £487m and a place in the top 200.
Some of the biggest gains have been made by those who do not fall in the billionaire bracket, or even those with fortunes of over £750m.
The wealth of individuals with between £330m and £750m has gone up 7.8 per cent this year, with those worth £328m to £151m seeing their fortunes grow by 9 per cent. That compares to a rise of just 2.5 per cent in the wealth of the richest 100.
There has been a sharp rise in the wealth of British-born entrepreneurs, with Laurence Graff, the diamond retailer, seeing his fortune go up £1,300m to £3,300m.
The performance of the earth-moving machinery firm JCB saw the fortune of its owner Sir Anthony Bamford and family go up by £1,500m to £3,150m, while Sir James Dyson, the inventor of the bagless vacuum cleaner, saw his fortune increase by £1,200m to £2,650m.
Topping the list of who, among Britain’s richest individuals, are also the most generous philanthropists is the artist David Hockney. He has given away more than twice his residual wealth of £34m by donating works valued at £76.5m, as well as £730,000 in cash, through the David Hockney Foundation.
Overall, donations or pledges from the top 100 philanthropists increased by £220m to £1.89 billion. That saw the amount of residual wealth donated by the top 100 richest people pass the milestone of at least one per cent for the first time in The Sunday Times Rich List’s 11-year history.
There have been notable changes in the fortunes of Britain’s richest artists, entertainers and celebrities.
Sir Paul McCartney, whose marriage to Nancy Shevell, the millionaire daughter of a US trucking magnate, has seen his estimated worth rocket from £495 to £665 million, making him the third-wealthiest man in British music. Ranked above him are Clive Calder, the music executive with a £1,350m fortune and Sir Cameron Mackintosh, whose wealth has grown by seven per cent to £725m.
JK Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter books, has seen her wealth grow by £30m to £560m, placing her 148th on the list.
Daniel Ek, the London-based owner of the music download site Spotify, makes his first appearance on the Rich List at 395, equalling the £190 million valuation of David and Victoria Beckham, who themselves added £25 million to their combined worth.
The Sunday Times Rich List Top 10
1. Lakshmi Mittal and family, steel: £12,700m
2. Alisher Usmanov, mining and investment: £12,315m
3. Roman Abramovich, oil and industry: £9,500m
4. Sri and Gopi Hinduja, industry and finance: £8,600m
5. Leonard Blavatnik, industry: £7,580m
6. Ernesto and Kirsty Bertarelli, pharmaceuticals: £7,400m
7. The Duke of Westminster, property: £7,350m
8. David and Simon Reuben, property and internet: £7,083m
9. John Fredriksen and family, shipping and oil services: £6,600m