Britain's top 100 Entrepreneurs 2009: Regional Analysis

Despite City woes, the South East stays in the lead. Industrial heartlands do well and the South West is on the up, but Wales sorely needs a Dragon

Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013


For sheer force of numbers, the South East can't be beat, with getting on for a third of our Top 100 based in and around London. Despite the carnage wreaked throughout the City - and the attendant dramatic reduction in the number of finance entrepreneurs on our list this year - it seems that the bottom right-hand corner of the nation can still lay claim to being the wealth-generating, as well as the geographical, capital of the UK. The entrepreneurial economy of this region is also diverse, with everything from service industries to high-tech, and from retail to food, well represented. The region boasts five of our overall top 10, more high-flyers than any other area. The 'average' south-eastern entrepreneur on our list is ranked 43rd, the second highest of any region (behind East Anglia), and their combined wealth is around £3.7bn. So although the downturn is set to hit this area hardest, thanks to the City's ongoing travails, it should nonetheless be resilient enough to take the blows and remain standing - bloodied, perhaps, but unbowed.


This traditional industrial area is next on our list, albeit a long way back, as 14 of the Top 100 call the North West home, and their combined wealth totals some £2.3bn. The region's roots remain heavily in evidence, thanks to firms like Michael Freeman's offshore engineering specialist Can Holdings and Philip Sheppard's giant scrap outfit, European Metal Recycling. But it's also home to no fewer than five retailers, including our favourite recession-busting shoe-repairer John Timpson, and Sam Rayner's storage products catalogue goldmine, Lakeland. Not to mention Sir Michael Bibby's Bibby Line, a shipping business that has diversified into everything from finance to funerals.


Third place goes to the South West, with a dozen enterprising locals on our list, worth a total of £1.4bn. A terrific result for a part of the country that, after a long and painful emergence from the post-industrial gloom of the '80s, has really got motoring. The area now boasts a host of firms, from the nerve centre of James Dyson's vacuum-cleaning empire through to Robert Braithwaite's Sunseeker yachts, and from Dale Vince's green power firm Ecotricity to Rick Stein's lucrative foodie haven in Padstow. They're a high-flying lot to boot, with an average rank of 45th in our table, only two places shy of the South East.


Ten of our Top 100 hale from God's Own County, worth some £860m between them. Traditional industries are represented by the likes of Hull's Andrew Marr (no, not that one), whose boats have been fishing the North Sea - and beyond - for over a century. Alan Beardshaw's Special Steel Company (based in Sheffield, of course) may have its roots in the heavy industrial past, but it's a modern business whose specialist products are in demand worldwide. As is Thornton & Ross, maker of Covonia cough syrup and Stardrops household cleaner. The service sector is represented by Emma Harrison's A4E recruitment outfit and Hamish Ogston's CPP.


Nine representatives of the East Midlands, one of the most diverse regions of the country, feature this year. From Shiraz Tejani's growing paper products business LPC through to the HQ of Sir Paul Smith's globe-spanning fashion house, from Lee Cottingham's energy-efficiency specialist Mark Group to Bill Evans' pharmacy chains, Cox & Robinson and Manor Pharmacy, the enterprising east-midlanders have got their fingers in many pies. Their combined wealth is getting on for £650m and the average ranking is 48th.


Eight of the Top 100 come from north of the border (nine, if you include Duncan Bannatyne, a proud Scot who is now based in Darlington - not quite as far south as fellow patriotic expatriate Sean Connery). Thanks to North Sea oil and gas, there's a heavy industrial bias to their activities. Outfits like Wellstream, Score Group and Integrated Subsea Services all make a buck from the lucrative business of getting the gas out of the seabed and piped ashore. But there are other sectors to be found - Alexander Buchan's Lunar Fisheries also exploits the resources of the North Sea, but for food rather than fuel. And Douglas Park's eponymous Park Group coach and bus operator is one of Scotland's most recognised brands. Our Scots contingent rank 51st on average, and are worth around £658m in total.


Seven firms hail from what used to be called the Black Country in its grimy industrial heyday. And although metal-bashing remains an important part of the local economy, thanks to firms like Simon Preedy's Marla Tube Fittings, the region is also home to a number of less traditional firms: underwear entrepreneur Sarah Tremellen, for example, and Richard Harpin's Homeserve domestic maintenance group. Our west- midlanders are worth around £292m in total and their average rank is 66th.


It's a case of quality, not quantity, for East Anglia. It has just four companies in the Top 100 but two of them in the overall top three - Mike Lynch's Autonomy and Paul and Andrew Gower's Jagex. All three are Cambridge alumni and rely on the university to supply them with the top-class IT graduates their businesses require - it seems Silicon Fen is alive and thriving. Jonathan Milner's biotech firm Abcam is another knowledge business, and this brainy region scores highest in terms of average ranking, an impressive 15th. Our East Anglian foursome are worth a total of £483m.


The North East also has four representatives in the Top 100, but their average ranking is a rather more pedestrian 56th. Top 100 veteran Chey Garland's CJ Garland call-centre business is a major employer in a region badly hit by the demise of Northern Rock. Robert and Alan Anderson's Anson is a pipeline engineering outfit, the Powell Brothers' Cleveland Cable has a strong presence in the niche fireproof and heavy-duty electrical cable market, and Mark Stephenson's Danesmoor is the country's leading kitchen-component distributor. The north-easterners are worth a total of £375m.


This year's wooden spoon goes to Wales, whose regular place at the bottom of these surveys of entrepreneurial spirit is confirmed by our analysis. Despite being a devolved nation with its own parliament, Wales has some way to go in the wealth-generation stakes before it can really hold its head up on the international stage. Only one of Britain's Top 100 entrepreneurs comes from Wales - Ben Hoppe, whose Rowecord specialises in structural steel for the architecture and construction industries - and he is ranked a lowly 95th. It rather looks like the Welsh dragon could do with some help from The Dragons' Den...

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