LONDON, United Kingdom – Britain’s richest people reached record levels of wealth in 2011 even as the country was slipping back towards recession, according to the annual Sunday Times Rich List.
The combined fortunes of the 1,000 richest people in Britain rose by 4.7% to £414.26 billion ($674 billion, 508 billion euros) despite high unemployment and harsh government cuts, beating the previous record of £412.85 billion set in 2008.
The number of billionaires also hit a new high of 77.
Indian-born steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal held onto the top spot for the eighth year running, although his fortune dropped in value by 27% to £12.7 billion as the share price of his main business ArcelorMittal plunged.
Just behind him with £12.3 billion came Uzbek-born metals and mining tycoon Alisher Usmanov, who holds about 30 percent of the parent company of Arsenal football club.
Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovitch was third on the list with £9.5 billion.
The wealthiest British-born billionaire was the Duke of Westminster, who owns a central London property empire, but he slipped from third place to seventh, with his fortune estimated at £7.35 billion.
New entrants included Andrey Andreev, 38, a London-based Russian businessman who founded dating website Badoo, with £500 million.
Britain is officially in recession after its economy contracted in the last quarter of 2011 and first of 2012, and the government has suffered a slump in popularity after cutting income tax for top earners in last month’s budget.
The government has also made harsh cuts in its spending, with Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron last week standing by the austerity strategy despite fears it is undermining growth.
The Sunday Times list, which includes those for whom Britain is home or their main base of operations, is based on identifiable wealth such as land, property or significant shares in publicly quoted companies, and excludes bank accounts.
Britain’s top 10 billionaires in the Sunday Times Rich List 2012 (last year’s rank in brackets):
- Lakshmi Mittal and family — steel — £12.7 billion
- Alisher Usmanov — steel — £12.3 billion
- Roman Abramovich — oil, industry — £9.5 billion
- Sri and Gopi Hinduja — industry, finance — £8.6 billion
- Leonard Blavatnik — industry — £7.58 billion
- Ernesto and Kirsty Bertarelli — pharmaceuticals — £7.4 billion
- The Duke of Westminster — property — £7.35 billion
- David and Simon Reuben — property, Internet — £7.08 billion
- John Fredriksen and family — shipping — £6.6 billion
- Galen and George Weston and family — retail — £5.9 billion
– Agence France-Presse