Friday, June 21, 2024

British asylum housing tycoon breaks into Sunday Times rich list

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An Essex businessman who won government contracts paying his firm £3.5m a day for transporting and accommodating asylum seekers has been named among the 350 richest people in the UK.

Graham King, the founder and majority owner of a business empire that includes Clearsprings Ready Homes, which won a 10-year Home Office contract for housing thousands of asylum seekers, was on Friday named alongside King Charles III, the prime minister and Sir Paul McCartney on the Sunday Times rich list of the wealthiest people.

King, 56, is estimated to have amassed a £750m fortune from “holiday parks, inheritance and housing asylum seekers for the government”. Clearsprings Ready Homes made £62.5m in profits after tax for the year ending January 2023, more than double its profits of £28m the previous year.

King, ranked 221st, is one of several new entries to the 2024 rich list alongside Formula One driver Sir Lewis Hamilton and Tony and Cherie Blair’s son Euan, whose apprenticeship firm Multiverse is said to be worth £1.4bn.

The Hinduja brothers retained the title of the UK’s richest people with an estimated fortune of £37.2bn, up from £35bn last year – and the largest fortune ever recorded in the newspaper’s 36 years of ranking the wealthy.

Euan Blair, son of Tony Blair, also appears on this year’s rich list; his company, Multiverse, has been valued at £1.4bn. Photograph: Yui Mok/PA

However, this year’s list reveals the largest fall in the number of billionaires – from 177 to 165 – in its history. “This year’s Sunday Times rich list suggests Britain’s billionaire boom has come to an end,” said Robert Watts, the compiler of the list. “Many of our homegrown entrepreneurs have seen their fortunes fall and some of the global super-rich who came here are moving away.”

Sir Jim Ratcliffe, the founder of the petrochemicals company Ineos, who this year bought a 27.7% stake in Manchester United, is named as the biggest loser on the list, with a £6.2bn decline in his fortune to £29.7bn.

The richest 350 individuals and families together hold a combined wealth of £795.4bn – a sum larger than the annual GDP of Poland.

Priya Sahni-Nicholas, co-executive director of the Equality Trust, a charity that campaigns for the creation of a fairer society, said the list “demonstrates the obscene extent of inequality” in the UK.

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“Billionaire wealth is up by more than 1,000% since 1990 at a very real cost to us all,” she said. “This rich list is built off record bill increases, massive price hikes for essentials, an endless shortage of decent homes, and huge investment in fossil fuels.

“To make progress on these crises we must tackle inequality. The super-rich have spent centuries diverting wealth into their hands, making our democracy less responsive to people’s needs and damaging our communities. The result is we are poorer, sicker, less productive, unhappier, more polarised, and less trusting.”

Luke Hildyard, executive director of the High Pay Centre, a thinktank focused on pay, corporate governance and responsible business, said: “The rich list always prompts intense interest in billionaire rivalry over who’s up and who’s down, but as a society we should also ask whether this represents a fair, proportionate or efficient allocation of resources.

”Twelve of the top 20 rich-list entrants inherited their wealth or business. They all depend on the workers at the companies they own and invest in, or the public services and infrastructure that enable the economy to function.

“Allowing such a tiny number of people to capture such a huge share of collectively created wealth is not an inevitability but a policy choice that needs to be properly debated.”

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