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Who’s the top 50 richest in Essex?

PUBLISHED: 12:54 19 December 2017 | UPDATED: 12:54 19 December 2017

Lord Alan Sugar

Lord Alan Sugar


With the help of finance expert and writer Philip Beresford, Essex Life reveals the 2017 Essex Life Richest 50

Essex’s entrepreneurs and business leaders have proved that the only way really is Essex as far as money making goes. They have enjoyed another strong year with record wealth, plus another new billionaire who immediately jumps to number one in this, our 14th Essex Life Richest 50 list.

The total wealth of our 50 entries this year nearly hits £13.47bn – a 23.5% rise on the previous year’s total of £10.9bn. And the stakes are higher too! You would have needed £66m to get into our 2017 list – that’s up from £55m the year before.

But perhaps the most striking aspect of the 50 names that follow are just how many of these fortunes are self made by people who often came from very humble of backgrounds – proving the popular notion that Essex really is a county of innovative and industrious entrepreneurs.

Just four of the names in this year’s list inherited their money. That is the lowest proportion in a regional list of this kind since our compiler began examining the wealth of Britain’s richest people nearly 30 years ago.

Many of our entrepreneurs who have made hefty fortunes started out in humble roles. Jon Hunt started out washing cars in Canada while Simon Dolan was expelled from Chelmsford Grammar School at 16 and later went to work on the local market, which served him well in sharpening his business skills for later life. Mark Dixon, the billionaire behind the IWG office group, began his life in business selling peat from a wheelbarrow, while Mark Burnett, an ex-Para who saw active service in the Falklands War, later turned up in Hollywood with $200 to his name and worked as a nanny on the way to becoming one of the most powerful men in US television.

Many of these entrepreneurs were told they would not make anything of their lives, which only seemed to spur them on. Sir Jack Petchey was turned down for management training as he was told he would never make a businessman. So he went into taxi driving and never looked back. Stephen Conway was another budding entrepreneur who left school at 16 and worked the market stalls, ignoring the pleas of his mother to get a proper job.

There’s also a fair share of celebrity in the list. Former number one Lord Sugar, of Apprentice fame, marches upwards on the back of his expanding property empire. Leystonstone-born David Beckham and his Harlow-born wife Victoria continue to amass wealth on the back of lucrative sponsorship deals, while Epping Forest resident Rod Stewart managed to play 65 shows to 500,000 fans last year, raking in $56m.

Proximity to London and its financial services industry has always been a boon for the Essex economy. But equally importantly is the sheer diversity of the local economy. There are 17 of our 50 in construction and property and another eight in industry. Then there is the Stansted effect with three aviation businesses growing sharply around the airport. But aside from these business areas, there are no others getting beyond three entries in another 13 sectors.

We watch with interest what effect the battle over Brexit will have for the fortunes of the county’s wealthiest people next year, but so far so good and no problems to report. So read on to see their stories of success.


To qualify someone for the Essex Life Richest 50 is no simple matter. An entrant must either work, live or be born in the area or have a substantial presence in the area. Their wealth is assessed on land holdings, shares in quoted or private companies and any sale proceeds from company sales. Quoted company stakes were valued at the end of August 2017. Private companies are generally valued at about ten times their latest profit figures depending on the financial health of the operation. We have no access to detailed personal financial records, such as bank accounts or the like, so make no allowance for these.


1. Jon Hunt (NEW ENTRY)



Colchester-born Jon Hunt knows a thing or two about property as the former owner of the Foxtons estate agency chain. From an Army family, he was awarded a scholarship to Millfield boarding school (based on his abilities at tennis, rugby and swimming). He left after O Levels to join the Army, passing basic training for the Royal Artillery, where his father had been a colonel. After leaving the Army, and following a short spell washing cars in Ottawa, Canada, Hunt returned to the UK in 1972 and spent the next eight years working as an estate agent in Surrey.

Hunt’s property career began at age 19 when he borrowed a £100 deposit to buy a one-bedroom conversion flat in Walton Road, Woking for £4,500. In 1981 Hunt, then aged 28, co-founded Foxtons. The company took its name from a village near Hunt’s Suffolk home. The firm’s office in London’s Notting Hill Gate neighbourhood distinguished itself from competing estate agents by opening a then-unusual 74 hours a week, including weekend and evening hours, rather than the conventional 40 hours worked by rival estate agents. Foxtons expanded to other London districts, each new branch offering a 0% commission in its first three months of operation to attract customers. Hunt sold up at the height of the boom for £375m in early 2007.

After the sale of Foxtons, Hunt made substantial commercial property investments in central London at the bottom of the market in 2008. As well as commercial property, Hunt has been active in residential development too in Central London. He turned down an unsolicited offer for his seven-storey townhouse in Kensington Palace Gardens in 2008, reputedly for £200m. Hunt is now dipping his toe into new waters – a luxury, serviced office business called Dryland. His other assets include a car collection and a large Suffolk estate. In 2010 he launched Bacchus Partners, hoping to snap up derelict properties across the southeast and east of England, then turn them into housing. With a commercial property portfolio worth at least £600m and a swiftly appreciating classic car collection, Hunt is now worth £1.25bn. In 2012 he sold a 1963 Ferrari 250 GT for around £20m in 2012.


2. Lord Alan Sugar (-1)



2016: £1,150m

His opposite number from the US version of The Apprentice is now ensconced in the White House. But Lord Sugar is still busy doing what he does best: making a fortune from London property and no doubt preparing another armoury of withering put-downs for wannabe tycoons set to appear in the 13th series of his reality TV show. Sugar’s biggest property development to date was due for completion in March this year.

Crosspoint, in the centre of the City of London, will have 41,500sq ft of top of the range office space and 8,100sq ft of retail space. More London property projects are in the pipeline, with two buildings in Shoreditch and another in Clerkenwell bought for £64m over the past few years. The savvy, Chigwell-based tycoon is expected to make another good return on these developments, if his successful £65m sale of London Haymarket to Qatari investors after he bought it for £31.5m just two years before is anything to go by. He had earlier made £50m from turning around a Mayfair tower block in five years. And yet to many people this son of a Hackney tailor is only known for the Amstrad consumer electronics operation he founded in his early 20s.

He should have made around £36m personally from the £125m sale of Amstrad in 2007 and after chairing premiership club Spurs from 1991 to 2001, he picked up at least £25m for his stake. An inspirational business leader to many, he was appointed as David Cameron’s enterprise tsar after serving in a similar role for Labour. However, Theresa May took exception to what she called the peer’s ‘old fashioned views on women in the workplace’ some years ago. She is looking for a new candidate for this role. Lord Sugar’s main property company, Amshold, showed £518.8m of assets in 2015-16 (down £114.7m), but the drop was largely explained by a £181m dividend. We value his businesses at £1.05bn and add at least £200m of cash and other personal property assets. He is now worth at least £1.2bn.


3. David Sullivan (-1)



2016: £1,100m

A poor start to the 2017-18 season for West Ham United FC and fears of yet another relegation battle have called into question the long-term future of manager Slaven Bilic. For Essex-based David Sullivan, it will be particularly galling. He has joined the ranks of Britain’s billionaires in the past year on the back of being co-chairman of the Hammers with a 51% stake in the club now playing at their new home, the London Stadium.

The Cardiff-born magnate has shown himself to be an artful property investor in recent years. We now see more than £480m of net assets in his three major property companies - a rise of £66m in one year. Football clubs are notoriously difficult to value, but we now value Sullivan’s stake at around £375m - as the owners turned down an offer of £650m last year. Asset sales such as the £50m from Sports Newspapers in 2007, a £100m pension pot and £160m of recent property deals comfortably elevate Sullivan to £1.1bn.

Last year he showed off his £7.5m home to Eamonn Holmes and Ruth Langsford for their Channel 5 programme How The Other Half Live. The 14¬bedroom Theydon Bois mansion features two swimming pools, a number of silicone servants and a bowling alley.


4. Mark Dixon (-1)



2016: £1,020m

Mark Dixon, the son of a Ford car mechanic, began his entrepreneurial career selling peat from a wheelbarrow. He went to Rainsford Comprehensive School, leaving at 16. He set up a sandwich business called Dial-A-Snack in 1976, which failed to make his fortune, so he travelled the world, working his passage around Europe, Asia and Australia, from iron mining to bar work.

Dixon returned to his native Essex and invested £600 in a burger van on London’s North Circular Road. With the proceeds, along with his savings, he bought other vans but struggled to get enough bread rolls for the business – so he set up his own bread company supplying fast-food vendors, which he sold in 1988 for £800,000. Having relocated to Brussels he noticed how business people held meetings in cafes. So in 1989, he was inspired to set up Regus, providing offices with social and meeting spaces.

The concept worked and he floated the company in 2000. Renamed as IWG, the business is now valued at £2.7bn, with the shares having slid some way recently when City traders took fright at its latest results. Dixon sold shares worth nearly £102m in September 2016 and a further £94m worth in June. Previous share sales add around £100m. He retains a £683m stake. He has received at least £80m of dividends since 2008 and holds other assets including the Chateau de Berne vineyard in Provence and a five-star, 25-room hotel. In all he should be worth around £1.02bn.


5. Sir Charles Dunstone (NEW ENTRY)



Born in the genteel Essex town of Saffron Walden, Sir Charles Dunstone is best known for co-founding the Carphone Warehouse operation with his former Uppingham public schoolboy friend David Ross. The pair set up the business from a Marylebone flat in 1989 with £6,000 savings. Over the following 28 years few people can be considered more instrumental in making mobile phones and tablet computers ubiquitous parts of modern life.

A keen sailor, Dunstone’s stake in Dixons Carphone, created by a merger with Dixons Retail, has fallen sharply recently and is now worth just £236m. Yet the group is still Britain’s number one high street electrical retailer. His stake in TalkTalk, the mobile network which was floated in 2010, has struggled since a high profile cyber-attack two years ago. Dunstone’s holding is now worth £576m. However, it still should have yielded a £41.5m dividend for Dunstone in 2016.

With a reputation as a fierce party thrower at his Holland Park pad, perhaps it’s no surprise that Dunstone’s entrepreneurial appetites have now turned to food. The telecoms tycoon now has around 60 Five Guys hamburger restaurants and he’s begun rolling out a second fast food chain known as MOD – ‘made on demand’. This chain allows diners to design their own pizzas, picking extra topping for no further charge. He has also diversified into property, including the online estate agent HouseSimple. In all Dunstone should be worth £860m after-tax.


6. Vijay & Bhikhu Patel (-2)




The Patel brothers, Vijay and Bhikhu, arrived in Britain in the 1960s with just £5, a handful of O Levels and a hunger to succeed. In the early days Vijay saved up money to go to pharmacy college by working in a chip shop in Wembley and in 1975 he purchased his first pharmacy in Essex.

Bhikhu trained as an architect and came in to the business in 1984, a few years after Vijay established Waymade to distribute and market pharmaceutical products and prescription medicines. In 2002 they spun out Amdipharm which picked up molecules that were out of patent and held no special value for their multinational drug firm owners. Ten years later they sold it for £367m, retaining a £90m shareholding. Another Patel company, Marlborough Pharmaceuticals, is doing well with nearly £8m profit on £15.8m sales in 2015-16.

They also made a substantial sum from the 2015 sale of AMCO, a niche pharma company, for £2.3bn. Parts of Waymade have been transferred to another company and jobs have gone at its Basildon site.We keep the Patels at £675m.


7. Sir Jack Petchey (-2)



2016: £550m

Now 92, Sir Jack Petchey has built a hefty property empire through his Petchey Holdings with a commercial portfolio worth more than £500m. A champion of hard work and self belief, not everyone saw Sir Jack’s promise. He was turned down for officer training while serving in the Navy’s Fleet Air Arm during World War II.

Then after the war, while working as a clerk at the Solicitor’s Law Stationary Society, he was turned down for management training and told he would never make a businessman. Petchey first earned money running errands before working after the war as a taxi driver. He built a fleet of taxis, later expanding into used cars, property and timeshare. In 2006 and 2007, Essex¬based Petchey sold around £225m of stakes in six companies. Further sales in 2013 netted Petchey over £50m.

He plans to give the bulk of his fortune to charity through his foundation, which gives away £7m annually to supporting youth projects in London and the Home Counties. It has given away more than £100m so far. Despite his philanthropy, we still value Petchey at £550m. Knighted in the 2016 New Year Honours for services to young people in East London and Essex through the Jack Petchey Foundation, Petchey followed that by marrying the royal sculptress Frances Segelman in February.


8. Patrick McKenna (-2)



2016: £400m

Brentwood¬born Patrick McKenna attended Chelmsford Grammar School. He later trained as an accountant and became a partner at the age of 28 with Deloitte & Touche - where he headed its media and entertainment group. In 1990 he moved to run Andrew (later Lord) Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Group for eight years.

Branching out on his own, McKenna started his Soho-based Ingenious Media operation in 1998. It invested in Hollywood blockbuster movie Avatar, making about £123m. Its more recent film successes include Pride, Suffragette and High Rise. McKenna’s Ingenious Asset Management operation was sold to Tilney BestInvest in early 2016 for around £43.4m. McKenna had a 90% stake.

In 2015-16 his main Ingenious operations made a combined profit on £1.6m. With past salaries and dividends, McKenna should be worth £400m.

¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬ 9 Mark Burnett & Roma Downey 9. Mark Burnett & Roma Downey (-2)



2016: £375m

As the man who devised the reality TV show The Apprentice, Mark Burnett had more than a minor part in the script that led to Donald Trump becoming US president earlier this year. Burnett, widely considered to be the US’s king of reality TV, showed up in Hollywood more than 30 years ago with just $200 to his name.

The former paratrooper also dreamt up Survivor, Shark Tank and The Voice, while his Irish actress wife Roma Downey is the driving force behind The Bible and other faith-based programmes. Educated at the Warren School in Romford, Burnett fought in the 1982 Falklands conflict. Hollywood studio MGM spent $343m in 2014 to take a 55% stake in their TV production company and a few months later the pair exchanged their remaining stake for 1.3m of MGM shares - now worth around £100m.

In December 2015 Burnett signed a five-year contract to become president of MGM Television while Downey became chief content officer of the faith and family division. Past sale proceeds and the MGM deal take the Malibu-based couple to £390m. Burnett has been asked to handover more footage unbecoming for a president from The Apprentice, but said that it is not in his power to do so. More’s the pity.


10. Bill Ives & Family (-2)



2016: £365m

Known as a straight-talking Eastender and former boxer Bill Ives started Rainham Steel in 1973 as a new and reusable steel supplier.

The Essex-based business diversified and began to focus on builders and builders’ merchants in the 1980s. Its has a plant in Scunthorpe and has sponsored the local football team. Known apprporiately as “The Iron” Scunthorpe United play in League One. Rainham’s profit came in at £2.3m on £90.2m sales in 2015-16. Adding Ives’ salary to the bottom line pushes the profit to near £7.3m. We clip the value of the business to £150m this year, but large investments and property assets take Ives to £368m. A substantial donor to the Tory party over the years, he has also invested in Boxnation - a TV channel dedicated to boxing.


11. Ray O’ Rourke & family (-2)



2016: £300m

Civil engineering firm Laing O’Rourke recorded a pre¬tax loss of £267.2m in 2015-16 on turnover of more than £1.6bn. County Mayo-born Ray O’Rourke launched the business in 1978 with his brother Des.

The Grays-based business was re¬named Laing O’Rourke in 2001 when it acquired the construction division of John Laing, but these are tough times for the business, which has sustained hits from a number of difficult projects, including losses of around £80m from a PFI hospital in Canada.

However, we see £275.7m of assets in O’Rourke Investments Holdings (UK) and value the business on that figure. We assume the O’Rourke family is the ultimate owner of the operation, adding £30m for other assets and past salaries. Jersey-based O’Rourke received an honorary knighthood in 2011 for services to the UK construction industry.


12. David & Victoria Beckham (-2)



2016: £276m

David Beckham’s earnings over the past year would make one of today’s Premier League stars blush. Well, almost. We can see dividends of £24m alone from his two main companies due to Leytonstone-born Becks and his wife Victoria in 2015, plus profits of £8.6m from his new separate venture Seven Global LLP in its first seven months of trading. Since blowing the whistle on his football career four years ago, glamorous brands have queued up to harness the marketability of the former England captain.

These include Adidas, Coty, H&M, LVS, Belstaff, Breitling, Haigh whisky and Hachette. He has also signed a five-year deal to promote the Chinese Super League. Beckham’s company, Footwork Productions, has paid him over £147m in salary and dividends from 2002 to 2015. Forbes magazine, in its analysis of the 20 highest paid athletes of all time in 2016, put Becks’ total career earnings at $730m or £600m. David’s 21-year football career ended in 2013 with Paris St Germain, after a ten year spell with Manchester United, followed by a four year deal with Real Madrid and then a five-year contract with LA Galaxy, where he was by far the highest-paid player in Major League Soccer on £4m a year.

The Beckhams bought a £2.5m house in Sawbridgeworth in 1999, the year of their marriage, selling it in 2014 for £11.4m. Victoria has deep roots in Hertfordshire, having grown up near Broxbourne. She made her separate fortune as a pop star with the Spice Girls and has developed her own fashion brand. However, the accounts for Victoria’s enterprise do not make pretty reading. Losses soared to £4.3m in 2015. The label is propped up by her husband’s sporting and commercial exploits. The couple’s parent company, Beckham Brand Holdings, saw its profits hit £39.5m on £47.1m sales in 2015. It paid out £15.2m in dividends to David and Victoria, while David’s own company paid a £8.7m dividend in the same year.

Earlier this year unflattering emails emerged which showed the football superstar to be dismayed and angry that he had not received a knighthood. Only time will tell whether commercial partners and other sponsors feel this tarnishes the wholesome image of ‘Brand Beckham’. Because the affair may undermine his future earnings, we raise the Beckham’s by, for them, a modest £20m. This takes the glamorous couple to £300m.


13. Stephen Conway & family (-1)



2016: £220m

Stephen Conway founded Galliard Homes, London’s largest privately¬owned developer. His latest venture is a £750m development on the site of William Shakespeare’s former theatre known as The Curtain. The 2.3-acre project in London’s Shoreditch will include a 37-storey tower with 412 apartments and penthouses as well as office space for corporate tenants. Galliard also developed Whitehall’s Great Scotland Yard into an upmarket luxury hotel and built Baltimore Tower in Canary Wharf.

The company was co-founded in 1991 by Conway. An East Ender by birth, Conway left school in 1964 aged 16, and developed his early entrepreneurial spirit through trading, working in a bank and running a market stall at weekends. ‘When I was a kid, I worked in the market running my own stall. After I left school with five O Levels, my mum wanted me to get a “proper job” paying £6 a week in a bank. But the attraction of getting £40 a week from the market on a weekend was too great to resist,’ he has recalled. In 1969, he began his career in industrial finance, working for the First National Finance Corporation before being poached to run a small property¬lending bank until 1974.

Then followed the worst property and banking crash of the century. Conway saw it first hand and learnt the lessons before going to work for a property company until he co¬founded Galliard Group in 1991. Loughton-based Galliard made £69.4m profit on £261.3m sales in 2015-16. Galliard’s net assets have grown to £142m - an increase of almost £100m in 12 months. Conway and his sons own half the company, so we raise the family by £50m this year taking them to £270m.


14. Michael Gooch (-3)



2016: £250m

Leigh on Sea-born Mickey Gooch trained as an accountant. He first began an interest in the world of foreign exchange trading while chatting to some currency dealers in a local pub.

He soon left for New York where he worked for a number of blue chip American financial institutions. It was only when he was made redundant from the broker Refco in 1987 that he set up the Wall Street brokerage GFI, specialising in government bond options. He floated the business on Wall Street in 2005 and stayed as chief executive until 2013. It was recently taken over, netting the Gooch family around £185m. Other Gooch family assets add around £65m.


15. Gary Widdowson & Family (-2)



2016: £210

Gary Widdowson bought Kelling Hall and the accompanying 1,600-acre Norfolk estate for £25m back in 2008. He and his wife have turned the holding and many of its houses into a luxury holiday destination.

Epping-based Widdowson made his fortune from recycling, selling his London-based metal operation for £120m in 2006. We can see £140m of assets in eight separate companies, with the holding in a residential business rising by £30m in the past year. He divides his time between London and Norfolk.

An international showjumper in his youth, he and his wife Beverley became the first owners to have two horses in the same Olympic team. The couple own Nick Skelton’s horse Big Star and Michael Whitaker’s Cassionato, which was also selected for Rio. Widdowson should easily be worth £235m with other assets.


16. Vipul Thakrar & family (NO CHANGE)

Food Production


2016: £191m

Bacon naan rolls and chai tea lattes produced by the Dishoom restaurant chain have achieved cult status in London. The chain, which recently opened in Edinburgh, is the latest venture from the Thakrar family, originally from India, but which was expelled from Uganda by the Iddi Amin regime in 1972.

Known as the rice kings of Britain with over half the market, the Thakrars brought over basmati rice to the UK’s fast-increasing Asian community. From this emerged their Rainham-based operation Tilda Rice, which was sold in early 2014 for £220m.

The Thakrar family owned it all. Dishoom saw its profits dip slightly in 2015 to £870,000 on £18.8m sales. But net assets rose by over £10m to £14.6m and we raise the family accordingly this year to £201m after-tax and re¬investment.


17= Graham Peacock (-3)



2016: £200m

Graham Peacock started working in petrol stations in his late teens, but it was not until his late 40s that he started his own business. He and his business partner Susan Tobbell set up their petrol station operation in 1997 with just £1,000 of savings.

By the time they sold MRH (GB) in early 2016 the Epping-based business had 450 outlets generating annual sales of more than £2bn. Most of these outlets were branded as BP, Esso or Torq filling stations. Peacock served as chief executive and owned a 22% stake in the business. In 2016 a US private equity operation bought the business for around £1bn and Peacock retired. Taking account of previous earnings, the sale price of his stake and tax, he should easily be worth £200m.


17= Gordon Sanders & family (NO CHANGE)

Care homes


2016: £185

Buying Hadleigh¬based Runwood Homes for £60,000 in 1988 was an inspired move for property developer Gordon Sanders.

A decade later he sold the company’s assets and moved into care homes. Today Runwood has invested over £21.9m in new and upgraded care homes taking its total of beds to 4,585 beds. The business made £8.3m profit and showed £159.6m net assets in 2016. Taking account of dividends and other assets, the Sanders family should be worth £200m.


17= Susan Tobbell (-2)



2016: £200m

Susan Tobbell made her fortune from forecourts. Starting with her business partner Graham Peacock and just £1,000 back in 1997, the pair built up their Epping¬based operation MRH with £2bn annual sales and more than 450 sites.

Most of these outlets were branded as BP, Esso or Torq filling stations. Tobbell served as finance director and owned a 22% stake in the business. A US private equity operation bought the business in 2016 for around £1bn. Taking account of previous earnings, the sale price of her stake and tax, Tobbell should easily be worth £200m. She is a member of the Liberal Democrats’ business advisory group and one of the party’s largest donors.


20. Andrew Hill & family (+6)



2016: £138

Hill Partnerships has built houses costing up to £4m in Esher and yet is also working on the regeneration of tired housing estates.

Formed in 1999, the business is run by Andrew Hill, who with his family and trusts owns most of the company. Hill Holdings, its Waltham Abbey¬based parent company, made record profits of £37.1m on £367.28m sales in 2016. With a strong balance sheet and £96.2m assets, it is worth at least £250m. The Hill family stake is worth £187m. Other assets add £6m.


21. Nigel Morris (-3)



2016: £180m

Nigel Morris chairs posh pawnbroker Borro. The business has lent money to wealthy people, taking fine wine, jewellery, antiques, expensive musical instruments and even a Rolls Royce as security. He made his money lending to the less well-heeled. Hired to implement an information-based strategy in 1988, he became the architect of the Capital One credit card.

Morris retired from Capital One in 2004 having sold £136m worth of shares. Billericay-born, Morris is now based in Virginia, in the United States. He is managing partner of the investment group QED Partners, which recently poured money into the UK student lending company Future Finance. He has also backed Prosper.com, an online loans company. Morris sits on the boards of the London Business School and National Geographic. Other assets keep him at £180m.


22. Sir Rod Stewart (-3)



2016: £160m

Knighted in the Queen’s birthday honours last year, Sir Rod Stewart promised her majesty to ‘wear it well’. He continues to tour extensively and in 2016 played more than 65 shows to over half a million fans, raking in $56m at the box office. This was his biggest touring schedule for many years and he has packed in concerts in Las Vegas, Mexico City, London, Abu Dhabi already this year.

Stewart’s new home is the Grade-II listed Durrington House, near Harlow. He bought the £4.65m property in 2013 and spent three years renovating the 10-bedroom home, which is set in 46 acres of pastures and ancient woodland. Such extensive grounds should give Stewart and his wife Penny Lancaster plenty of space to indulge their passion for growing flowers.

The couple are regulars at the Chelsea Flower Show and the rocker revealed that when suffering from throat cancer he considered quitting music to set up a flower business. He is also planning a £5m 50ft pool at the house for his 11-year-old son who wants to be an Olympic swimming champion. Stewart’s current Essex home, Wood House, has yet to sell with a £7.5m price tag. Still, the lucrative touring schedule prompts us to raise Stewart to £170m this year.


23= Alfie Best & family (-4)

Residential parks


2016: £160m

Romany gypsy Alfie Best was born by the side of a road in Leicester and left school at 12. Today the enthusiastic amateur boxer owns 47 caravan parks, houses in Hampstead and Mayfair as well as a 20-acre estate in Hertfordshire.

His West Thurrock¬based Wyldecrest Parks recently announced that it has acquired a mobile home park, its first development in the United States. It has 52 residential parks in the UK too. Best’s main company, Best Holdings, showed £49m net assets in 2015.

Other assets and private property take Best to £160m. His son, also called Alfie, became a nightclub owner at the age of 16 when he bought Chelsea’s in Hertfordshire ¬ despite having to wait for a legal tipple.


23=Sir Keith Mills (-4)

Loyalty cards


2016: £160m

An avid sailor, Sir Keith Mills is the lead backer of Sir Ben Ainslie’s America’s Cup sailing campaign. The loyalty scheme entrepreneur wants the British public to get behind the contest ‘with all the passion of a World Cup or a Ryder Cup’.

This is his latest venture in the sporting arena, having previously organised the Invictus Games. He was also deputy chairman on the organising committee for the London Olympics and he is looking for investors to build a world-class sailing centre in Portsmouth. Born in Brentwood, Mills made his money from loyalty cards - first Air Miles, taken over by BA in 1994, and later the Nectar card, which he sold in 2007 netting £160m.

He has settled a claim against Coutts Bank where he had £73m of his wealth tied up in AIG Bonds, and had been seeking £8m in damages. His other assets include around £2m of company assets and a recent £2.5m investment in video messaging app Wordea. We value Mills at £160m for now.


23= Brendan O’Malley & family (-4)



2016: £160m

The Woodford Green-based Mulalley Group was started in 1972 by the O’Malley family. Mulalley works largely with public-sector clients across London and southeast England.

Its varied projects have included refurbishing houses as part of the government’s Decent Homes initiative and constructing new schools. In 2015-16 its profits hit £24.3m on £187.8m sales while its assets rose comfortably to £94.2m. The £160m operation is owned by Brendan O’Malley and his family.


26. Sir Jonathan Ive (-2)



2016: £152m

Apple’s design genius has recently unveiled the eighth incarnation of the iPhone. Industry experts believe the Chingford¬born chief design officer has slipped into the role once occupied by the late Steve Jobs and is now Apple’s ‘master collaborator and thinker’.

Ive is the designer behind a range of best-sellers, such as iPods, iPhones and iPads. The ex-Newcastle Poly industrial design graduate was lured to California in 1992 and five years later was promoted to become the company’s design chief at 29. Knighted in 2012, he was moved away from a management role three years later to become the firm’s first chief design officer.

Details of his pay and shareholding are not made public, but salaries, stock options and property assets, including a £10m San Francisco home, should easily take Ive to £157m after tax. Ive once said that if he didn’t work for Apple he would like to design Christmas decorations. Spying an opportunity, the London hotel Claridge’s last year hired the design guru to create a festive installation.


27. Jamie & Juliette Oliver (-8)

Media & restaurants


2016: £160m

TV chef Jamie Oliver’s business ventures have certainly gone off the boil in recent years. Turnover at his main media business Jamie Oliver Holdings fell by 20% to less than £32m in 2015. But at least it made a £1m profit, after an £11.1m loss the year before. He has closed all of his Recipes deli-come-cooking school outlets, which had premises in Notting Hill, Brighton and Clapham Junction. His restaurant group Jamie’s Italian has also been feeling the heat.

Profits fell again to £2.4m in 2015-16, although the management were bullish about new openings overseas. Starting to cook at the age of eight in his parents’ pub in Clavering, the young Oliver enrolled at Westminster Catering College after school and during the summer worked at the Starr restaurant in Great Dunmow. Fresh from college he earned his stripes at Antonio Carluccio’s trendy Neal Street restaurant in Covent Garden and quickly moved on to become assistant chef at London’s River Cafe where he was spotted by a TV producer filming a documentary there.

A string of cook books and TV programmes followed. By 2012 he had shifted 10million books worth £126m. Given the lower turnover at his main company and the lean times for Jamie’s Italian, we clip the Olivers again to £150m.


28= Simon Dolan (-3)

Business services


2016: £140m

Simon Dolan started selling scratch cards in the playground of King Edward Grammar School in his native Chelmsford. After being expelled at 16 he began selling cheese and eggs on a Chelmsford market stall. He says it taught him, ‘the gift-of-the-gab, commitment to hard graft and strong arithmetic’.

After a range of jobs including selling photocopiers and timeshare apartments, he capitalised on his penchant for numbers and started a simple business handling accounts and tax returns for small, local businesses, offering his services on a fixed fee basis and running the business from his spare bedroom. That was in 1992. It grew into one of the UK’s largest accountancy firms with more than 14,000 clients. Now a serial entrepreneur, Dolan has interests ranging from accountancy, employment services, motor racing, publishing and an airline.

His parent company, Hemel Hempstead-based SJD Group, was sold in September 2014 for £80m. He has become enthused by motor racing and created his own team Jota Sport in 2011, which won the 24 hour Le Mans race three years later. His past salaries, car collection and property interests take Dolan to £140m.


28= David Wernick & family (+1)



2016: £110

Having knocked up a few sheds, crates and chicken houses for his business’s use, Sam Wernick erected a sign outside his poultry farm stating, ‘Sheds for Sale Enquire Within’.

That was in the 1930s and today Wickford¬based Wernick Group is one of the largest builders and hirers of wooden and modular buildings. Under David Wernick, its executive chairman and grandson of the founder, the group is worth £130m on the back of a record £15.2m profit and showed £81.6m net assets in 2016. The wider Wernick family is worth £140m with other assets.


30. Derek Hood & family (-3)

Classic cars


2016: £120

Billericay-born Derek Hood trained as a dentist, but after he began restoring classic cars as a hobby, he quickly found there was strong demand for his services and that he could turn his pastime into a business. He gave up teeth and since 1987 has been running JD Classics. The Maldon-based operation specialises in restoring and preparing classic racing cars, especially Jaguars.

It also provides customers with JD race team specialists to support their cars in European and worldwide race events. Hood has launched Jaguar Heritage Racing Trust on behalf of Jaguar Cars, which gives full race preparation and support for Jaguar’s Cars’ historic fleet of vehicles. JD Classics is also a main partner of the most famous classic racing events in the world including the Mille Miglia, Goodwood Revival and Le Mans Classic.

In 2015-16 JD Classics saw its profits soar to £21.1m on £121.8m sales. An Italian private equity business bought a majority stake in JD Classics last September. The terms were not disclosed but the buyer, Charme Capital, typically snaps up companies only valued at above £100m. We reckon it should have been worth at least £150m to Charme. Hood will retain a minority stake and allowing for tax, should be worth £120m.


31. Surinder Kandola (NEW ENTRY)



Za Za Bazaar in Bristol is reckoned to be the biggest restaurant in the UK, seating 700 people.

It is owned by Surinder Kandola, who is also a prominent Domino’s Pizza franchisee. His main company, Chelmsford-based GDSK, made a £2.1m loss on £92.5m sales in 2015-16. But it should be worth its £124.3m net assets. Kandola has a 90% stake worth nearly £112m. (New entry)


32= Lord & Martin Harris (-4)



2016: £110m

Carpets have made Lord Harris’s fortune. He took over the family carpet business at the age of 15, after his father’s death. He sold this business, which had become Harris Queensway, in 1988, netting £69m. But he is better known for Carpetright, which he founded soon after.

When he stood down as chairman of the Rainham¬based business in 2014, after 57 years in the trade, Carpetright had more than 600 shops and annual sales of nearly half a billion pounds. He netted share sales of at least £50m from Carpetright over the years. The Harris family is worth around £110m, but Lord Harris would have been much richer but for his charitable work, which includes the Harris Federation of 41 school academies.


32= Kevin Taylor (+1)



2016: £85m

Quantity surveyor Kevin Taylor started Brentwood¬based McLaren Construction from his home around the year 2000.

The box for the company’s fax machine served as his first desk, with his dining room table acting as the boardroom table. Since then McLaren has built offices and plants for Rolls Royce, Aviva, Sky News and a host of other big names here in the UK and in the Middle East. The company showed profits of £4.1m in 2015¬16, when it held assets of £30.3m ¬ up £5m on the previous year. With a £27.3m dividend in the past year, we now raise Taylor to £110m.


34= Harry & Suki Dulai & family (+10)

Food & property


2016: £65m

Flying Trade Group saw its profits rise strongly in 2016 to £10.9m while its net assets hit £39.5m.

The Harwich¬based company operates a series of food, hotel and property businesses. The seeds of this business empire were sown by Kewal Dulai, who came to Britain from India in 1971. Harry and Suki Dulai, Kewal’s sons, run the family¬owned operation today. We value the Dulai family at £100m.


34= Daniel Watts, Jayne Gee & family (-3)



2016: £95m

Plans to build a new £70million retail park on the edge of Colchester were approved in August after the Local Government Secretary overturned the local council’s decision to refuse planning permission.

The application by the Tollgate Partnership is for an out-of-town shopping village covering the 20-acres of the former Sainsbury’s site, with retail and leisure uses including a new cinema. Since the 1980s Tollgate Partnership, run and owned by the Watts family, has delivered a shopping centre, business park, Sainsbury’s superstore, new roads and improved access for pedestrians and cyclists in the area.

Today the business is run by the second generation of the family, Jayne Gee and Daniel Watts. Its main subsidiary, Corporate Associates, showed nearly £97m net assets in 2015-16. Other smaller property companies and additional interests take the Watts family to £100m.


36. Graham & Richard Cherry (-6)



2016: £100m

Chartered surveyor and estate agent Alan Cherry founded Brentwood¬based Countryside Properties in 1958. It listed on the stock market in 1972 but was then taken private in 2005. Cherry remained as chairman until his death in 2010.

His sons, Graham and Richard, joined the board in 1984 and 1986 respectively. It was largely taken over by a private equity group in 2013 though the Cherry family are still involved in the business. Countryside re¬floated on the stock market in 2016 and is now valued at £1.58bn.

The Cherry brothers retain small stakes now worth together nearly £55m. Proceeds from share sales and other shares in trust plus Stonebond, a property operation with £3.2m net assets, easily take the family to £95m.


37= Avnish Goyal & family (-4)

Care homes


2016: £85m

Avnish Goyal made a wise move not to enter the accountancy profession even after his training at top¬notch firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers. He went into property instead, working with his parent’s property portfolio.

His parents-in-law, both doctors, had built a care home and he saw that this could be a profitable business. In 1997 he launched Billericay¬based Hallmark Healthcare with its first 44¬bed home, costing £850,000.

Today it operates 17 care homes and has been rebalancing its portfolio to concentrate on South Wales and the south and eastern part of England. In 2015¬16 Hallmark’s profits came in at £7m on £52.8m sales. The £80m operation is owned by the Goyal family. Other assets take the Goyals to £85m.


37= Ray Stephens & family (+4)



2016: £70m

The Inflite story today goes back to 1919 when Bill Stephens founded Victoria Welding in Stratford, London. During the war it made fighter fuselage sections and then later worked with Marconi on the TV aerial at Crystal Palace.

Today Bill’s grandson Ray Stephens chairs the parent group of Stansted¬based Inflite which specialises in precision engineering components for the aviation industry. Stephens and his family own at least 97% of the shares. In 2015-16, Swan made a £6m profit on sales of £64.4m. With £71.5m net assets it is easily worth £80m. With other smaller businesses, the Stephens family is worth £85m after¬tax and spending.


39. Dennis Myers & family (-3)



2016: £83m

Dennis Myers made his fortune through Hornchurch¬based Swift Advances, a mortgage and consumer credit lender. The private equity group Alchemy partners bought the business for £100m back in 2004.

With his family trusts, he owned all the shares. We value the Myers family at £85m allowing for tax and past salaries and a property company with £3.2m of net assets.


40. Barry Hearn & family (NO CHANGE)

Sports management & media


2016: £78m

There was nothing posh about Barry Hearn’s early years. An East End boy from a council estate whose mother was a cleaner and dad a London bus driver, he later trained as an accountant and became the youngest ever chartered accountant to become a member of the institute. Hearn later worked for a large firm where one of his biggest clients was Deryck Healy International, a textile design company. In 1973, he persuaded the firm that it needed a full-time finance director. Overnight he had doubled his salary.

One of his briefs at Healy was to look at possible acquisitions, so he took the company into snooker, buying the Lucania chain of snooker halls for £500,000 in 1974. It was such a good investment that he put his own money into it. When Healy sold it in 1982 for more than £3.5m Hearn owned a third of it. He invested his cut and in June 1982 he left Healy and formed his own company, Matchroom. He had a Romford snooker hall, a fruit-machine and pool-table business in the East End, some offices and the best snooker player the world had yet produced, Steve Davis, who simply walked in off the street.

Since then Hearn has dominated snooker, overseeing its extraordinary leap as it became established as Britain’s favourite television sport. He managed the best players, organised many of the top tournaments and sold them to television. He took 20% of his players’ income but re¬invested heavily in the sport. He also branched out into boxing, pool, bowling, golf, fishing, poker and darts, giving the latter a much-needed injection of razzmatazz. Matchroom, owned by Hearn and his family, made profits of £9m in 2015-16 on £70.5m sales. It is worth £70m. With his other assets, Hearn is easily worth £82m.


41= Christopher Johnson & family (-4)



2016: £80m

Allan Johnson worked at Southend Airport and noticed pilots were taking time off due to back and leg problems caused by uncomfortable sitting positions on long flights. He was inspired to design a seat with adjustable lumbar and leg support, and established IPE (Industrial Precision Equipment) to manufacture the seats for pilots, co-pilots, navigators and engineers in 1961.

The company’s big break was in persuading Lufthansa, the German airline, to specify Ipeco seats in the mid-1970s, after which orders from Boeing began to roll in. Today the business, still based at Southend Airport, is run by Allan’s son, Christopher. With nearly £43m net assets and a £7.8m profit in 2015, it is still an £70m operation. We add £10m to the Johnson family for other assets and past dividends and salaries.


41= Tim & David Sargeant & family (NEW ENTRY)



2016: £80m

Developing historic properties is the speciality of Stansted¬based developer City & Country. It is turning former Grade II listed Bristol General Hospital into 205 apartments and houses, and in 2016 proposed the conversion of a former Grade II listed prison in Portsmouth into 230 homes.

Founded in 1962, it is still owned by the Sargeant family led by Tim and David Sargeant. Its profits rose slightly to £13.5m on £55.7m sales in 2015¬16. With £39m net assets, it is still an £80m operation.


41= Frank Van Wezel (-3)



2016: £80m

Back in 1974, Dutchman Frank Van Wezel started his Hi-Tec sports footwear business. Its home was the appropriately named town of Shoeburyness. The firm soon became well known for its squash and tennis shoes, later branching out into trainers as Britain’s running boom took off in the 1980s.

Hi-Tec shoes have sold well in the US and today their wares are bought in 85 countries around the world. The business, now run by Franz’s son Ed, should easily be worth its £66.2m net assets. Van Wezel is a director of League One football club Southend United, which is now looking to build a new £80m stadium capable of taking 22,000-strong crowds. In all he should easily be worth £80m.


44= Iain Liddell (-3)



2016: £70m

After gaining experience of the container trade when he worked for a leading shipping line, Ian Liddell hatched the idea for setting up his own freight service operation the day before his 21st birthday in 1984. Today, over 30 years later, Uniserve is the largest freight service provider in the UK with over 500 staff.

The Tilbury-based operation is entirely owned by Liddell. In 2015¬16 it made £4.9m profit on nearly £157m sales. With £71m net assets it is worth that sum. We add £4m for past salaries/dividends and other assets to Liddell.


44= Rabinder Rai & Family (-11)

Care homes


2016: £85m

Rabinder Rai founded Ilford¬based Ranc Care Homes in 1988. It operates 10 care homes across Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex and Kent. In 2015-16 its parent’s net assets had fallen from £78m to £68m. Rai and his family took a £10.6m dividend which explains that fall.

With profits coming in at £944,000 we value the business on the net assets figure. Past dividends take Rai and his family to £75m after tax.


46. Mark Anderson (NEW ENTRY)



The Chelmsford¬based Anderson Group was founded in 1987 by Mark Anderson, who is now chairman of the thriving construction operation. In 2015-16 it made £8.2m profit on £72.7m sales. With a strong balance sheet and nearly £24.6m net assets, it is worth £70m. Other smaller company assets take Anderson to £72m.

For the firm’s 25th anniversary in 2012, a specially-commissioned work of art was unveiled by the Mayor of Chelmsford. The 80 metre long mural has been created on hoardings around the former White Hart pub site which is owned by Anderson and is next to the group’s head office on Colchester Road, Springfield.

The work, created by Vic Lee in association with Hug London, depicted the history of the company and features several members of the team, including some of its longest serving employees.


47. Gene Willson (-6)



2016: £70m

Stansted-based Titan Airways saw its profits hit £6m on record sales of £89.4m in 2016-17. The company is run and largely owned by Gene Willson, a qualified pilot. Titan charters planes to a range of clients and also owns Satellite Travel Group. About half the company’s revenue comes from transporting mail and freight, but Titan also operates a variety of charters.

Recent passengers have included Premiership and national football teams, rock groups and even royalty. With £38.5m net assets, Titan is worth £65m. Willson owns all but one special share. Dividends take him to £70m.


48= Peter Cooper (-4)



2016: £65m

Founded in 1984, Hockley¬based Seetec Business Technology Centre is one of the country’s top training companies, priding itself on offering high-quality training. In 2015-16 Seetec saw its profits hit £10.1m on £82.7m sales. It should easily be worth £75m on these figures. MD Peter Cooper has an 80% stake worth £60m. Other assets should add £6m.


48= Richard Higgins & family (NO CHANGE)



2016: £56m

The Loughton-based Higgins Group saw its profits rise to £5.8m on a record £260.4m turnover in 2015-16. There are £47.5m of net assets. It has been particularly successful in the London market. The group was founded in 1960 by the late Derek Higgins who died in 2004.

His three sons are directors, led by the eldest, Richard, who is chairman and here representing the family as a whole. We value the business at £58m, adding £8m for pay and other assets to the Higgins family.


50. Brian De’ath & family (NEW ENTRY)



Wickford Developments is a highly regarded Chelmsford property operation. Its site managers regularly win national awards for excellence while it has come up with innovative development schemes to maximise scarce Essex land in partnership with local authorities.

Run by Brian De’ath, its profits came in at £12.4m on £22.3m sales in 2015. With £34.2m net assets, the company is worth £65m. De’ath and his family trusts own all the operation.


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