To compute the winners, Datastream has compared the value of the publicly quoted shareholdings held by individual directors and their families between May 4 1979 and November 28 1990. Where they have sold the shareholdings, the proceeds of the sale are given. With private companies Datastream has estimated the value of the shareholdings in line with prevailing stock market values. If a company was floated after May 1979, the date of its market debut is the base. The same rules apply to the losers, except that the date used is when their shares were at their peak.
They were the clever deal makers with an impeccable and infallible sense of timing. Many cashed in on their success by exiting just before the current recession began.
The Sainsbury family (supermarkets): 1979 £119m; 1990 £1,709m.
Britain's number one supermarket chain started out in 1869 when one John Sainsbury opened a dairy shop in London's Drury Lane. The first supermarket appeared in 1955, with the end of wartime rationing. Lord Sainsbury, great-grandson of the founder, is chairman, while his cousin, David, is chief executive. Under their leadership, profits have risen above £420 million, on sales of £5.6 billion.
Garfield Weston (food manufacturing): 1979 £175m; 1990 £1,124m.
Identified as one of the 10 industrialists who were closest to Mrs Thatcher, the intensely private Weston heads Associated British Foods, which produces household names like Twinings tea and Ryvita. Even after its £880 million purchase of British Sugar last year, the company still has a £300 million cash pile.
Sir James Goldsmith (financier): 1979 £50m; 1990 £750m.
Always a gambler, the colourful Sir James won fame and a £750 million fortune on Wall Street in the '80s. He beat the 1987 stock market crash by selling out of his major holdings at the peak, returning briefly for an unsuccessful bid for the giant BAT Industries. He has now put his money into gold and is concentrating on saving the environment.
Richard Branson (leisure and travel): 1986 £110m; 1990 £600m.
Not many top businessmen would even contemplate crossing the Pacific in a hot air balloon, for fun or any other reason. But that is just the sort of costly stunt that the unconventional Richard Branson attempts when he is not at the helm of his two highly successful businesses, music group Virgin and airline Virgin Atlantic. He is now 41 and with a couple more deals he will become Britain's youngest ever self-made billionaire.
Robert Maxwell (publishing): 1979 £50m; 1990 £500m.
Born Jan Ludwig Hoch, the son of a Czech labourer, Robert Maxwell escaped the Nazis to distinguish himself in the British Army. His fortune is based on the scientific journals of Pergamon Press, which he founded in 1948. He spent the 1980s building up his communications group into one of the world's largest, in everything from printing to newspapers to satellite television.
Jack Walker (steel): 1979 £30m; 1990 £330m.
With brother Fred, Jack Walker took his father's sheet metal company into steel stockholding. By 1988 Walkersteel was making profits of £48 million. Two years on they sold to British Steel for £330 million. Jack has put £30 million into his Jersey European Airways, which is now a highly successful airline.
Joe Bamford (construction): 1979 £20m; 1990 £250m.
Joe Bamford, who hails from a distinguished Staffordshire agricultural family, built his first excavator after the war. The bright yellow JCBs now dominate the construction market, although they face a tough battle today with the depressed state of the industry. But the company, now run by Joe's son, Sir Anthony Bamford, has seen it all before - in the early '80s. Its latest results showed profits of £38 million.
Tiny Rowland (mining): 1979 £25m; 1990 £208m.
Perhaps best known for his feud with the Fayed brothers over Harrods and House of Fraser, Tiny Rowland built up his mining and trading company, Lonrho, in the '50s and '60s. With 1,000 subsidiaries in 100 countries, it made profits of over £273 million last year. Rowland, who this year celebrates 30 years as head of Lonrho, sees the 1990s as a time of great opportunity, particularly in Eastern Europe and South Africa.
Lord Forte (hotels): 1979 £34m; 1990 £178m.
Lord Forte was always a staunch supporter of Mrs Thatcher, and during her years in office his Trusthouse Forte group certainly thrived. Increasing tourist revenue, booming business travel and a British population with increased leisure all helped the fortunes of his hotels and restaurants. The value of the business grew fivefold from 1979 to 1990.
Ken Morrison (supermarkets): 1979 £20m; 1990 £178m.
The Morrison family own around a half of the Wm Morrison chain in Yorkshire. Though they only opened the first supermarket in 1961, there are over 40 today. Morrison's strong showing in recent years reflects its performance as a recession-proof business.