The entrepreneurs' Rich List 2012

The Sunday Times Rich List is out. We've picked over the top 50 to find out which UK entrepreneurs are defying the recession to rise through the ranks of the fabulously wealthy.

by Rebecca Burn-Callander
Last Updated: 19 Aug 2013

Do the rich get richer, even in a downturn? The answer is broadly, yes. Out of the eight entrepreneurial entries in the Rich List's top 50, seven have either increased their fortunes or stayed at the same level.

So who are these champions of industry?

No guess as to the highest-ranking British entrepreneur on the 2012 Rich List. Coming in at number 16, it's Richard Branson. The Virgin tycoon has built an international empire spanning rail, planes, the internet, communications, wine, music, health clubs, holidays, and now banking and space travel. Worth an estimated £3.4bn, up £325m on last year, Branson proves that a recession doesn't have to be a barrier to growth.

In 17th place, it's Sir Philip Green and wife Tina with a combined wealth of £3.3bn. But a fall in profits at Arcadia, which controls Topshop, BHS, Dorothy Perkins, Evans and Wallis, has hit Green's bank balance. He is £900m worse off than in 2011. He better hope for a high street turnaround fast if he wants to regain his lost millions. Or perhaps his daughter Chloe can give the family nest egg a bit of a boost with her new line of fancy heels: Chloe Green Shoes.

In contrast, Anthony Bamford has had a brilliant year. His fortune is up £1.5bn after profits at digger company JCB jumped 51% to £355m. The Staffordshire business is now valued at £3bn. And it's not just Sir Anthony contributing to the family coffers. Lady Bamford's organic food business Daylesford (named after the Bamford estate) is doing a roaring trade in Chelsea, Notting Hill and Selfridges, even opening a flagship store in Japan...

Inventor and entrepreneur James Dyson also saw a billion-pound windfall in 2011 - £1.2bn to be precise. Dyson made 5,127 versions of his now famous dual-cyclone cleaner before perfecting the invention. But it was worth the effort. Between Dyson's property asets and the skyrocketing value of his eponymous engineering business (now worth £2.5bn), Dyson's net worth has climbed to £2.65bn, bumping him up to 22nd place.

Hot on Dyson's tail is Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone. The sale of a 75% stake in the business to German media corporation Kirch in 2000 made Ecclestone a cool £1.9bn. Add that to his estimated £4m yearly salary as CEO of the business and it's not surprising he's got £2.5bn in the bank. Still, he reckons he needs every penny to pay for his daughters' expensive lifestyles: 'I'm not taking it easy. I can't afford to take it easy,' he says. And he's not exaggerating. In 2011, he forked out £101m for two luxury pads for the 'it' girls.

At number 26, it's the Barclay twins Frederick and and David. These entrepreneurial veterans control a varied portfolio, including property, retail and media interests, with a combined wealth of £2.25bn. Notoriously publicity-shy, the pair - who were born within 10 minutes of each other in Hammersmith back in 1934 - are best known for owning the Ritz hotel in Mayfair, and their acquisition of the Telegraph newspaper group in 2004.

If there's one entrepreneur who doesn't mind the media spotlight, its Sports Direct founder and Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley. Currently worth £1.75bn, up £482m on last year, the sports equipment businessman is set to keep climbing the Rich List ranks: he'll bag an extra two million shares, worth £24m, if he meets performance targets over the next couple of years. At number 36, he's the richest businessman in the north east.

Last but by no means least in the top 50 is erstwhile Phones4U entrepreneur John Caudwell. Now the proud owner of a Mayfair car park, soon to become an upmarket residential development, Caudwell is sitting pretty with £1.5bn on his personal balance sheet. Not bad for a man who started out sweeping floors at a local pottery factory in Stoke-on-Trent.

The Sunday Times Rich List is compiled by long-time MT contributor Philip Beresford. 

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