Britain's Top 100 Entrepreneurs 2008: Premium Power

Financial services still has the edge, but MT's latest ranking of Britain's top wealth-creators reveals a few surprises. Philip Beresford hails the manufacturers' return.

For the second year running, MT's Top 100 Entrepreneurs ranking proves that if you want to make a 21st-century fortune, financial services is where it's at. Insurance entrepreneur Peter Cullum heads the 2007 list. His Kent-based Towergate operation is experiencing hyper-growth. Set up by Cullum in 1997, Towergate is now the UK's largest privately owned insurance intermediary.

Cullum, though, faces the almost inevitable dilemma of every top entrepreneur: whether to sell up to private-equity players willing to pay upwards of £3bn for his business. Thus far, he has resisted their blandishments, claiming he is having 'the time of his life' building the business. But when he could walk away with £1.5bn, it becomes difficult to refuse the offers.

Cullum's operation has been in business for only a decade. But many of our Top 100 have been around for quite a lot longer. JCB, the construction equipment company, is now 62 years old. Under Sir Anthony Bamford's tutelage, JCB has expanded its product range, invested heavily in British manufacturing and spread its plants worldwide. Ranked 39th on our list, Bamford is also the wealthiest individual in this year's ranking, worth a cool £1.65bn.

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