In our final guide to the wealthiest people in Britain in 2013, we focus on the big players, from Roman to Delia, who own our top football clubs. By Philip Beresford, compiler of The Sunday Times Rich List
1. Alisher Usmanov
Arsenal have not won a trophy since 2005 and it has been getting on the nerves of Britain’s wealthiest man. You would think the solution was fairly straightforward.
The Russian billionaire — with a fortune founded on mining, telecommunications and other investments — could probably afford to buy the best players in the world with the money down the back of his sofa. Instead, marquee players such as Robin van Persie, Cesc Fàbregas, Gaël Clichy and Alex Song have all been snapped-up by rivals in recent years. For while Usmanov currently holds just shy of a 30 per cent stake in the club — up from the 15 per cent he first acquired in 2007 — he has no seat on the board. It is the American Stan Kroenke who remains the majority shareholder and who is committed to making Arsenal a self-financing business rather than a billionaire’s money pit. This cold war within the club’s ownership has, at times, flared. Last year Usmanov sent an open letter to the board deriding their lack of ambition, while at the same time stating his own thirst for glory. A shift in power at Arsenal could see the club once more swaggering to the top of the table.
2. Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan and family
The chamberlain of the royal court of Abu Dhabi, Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan is the owner of the Abu Dhabi United Group, the company set up to buy Manchester City in 2008. City became the richest club in the world when Sheikh Mansour bought it from Thaksin Shinawatra, the former premier of Thailand. Khaldoon Al Mubarak, the City chairman, is the face of the investment and although Sheikh Mansour is rarely seen in East Manchester, he remains one of the most powerful men in the Gulf. His eldest half-brother is the president of the United Arab Emirates, one of his brothers is the crown prince of Abu Dhabi and he is married to the daughter of Sheikh Mohammed, the ruler of Dubai. The acquisition of City, one of a series of investments in Western assets by the Al Nahyan family, is designed to export the Abu Dhabi brand. In footballing terms, last season the £450 million spend on players brought the club its first league title in 44 years.
3. Lakshmi Mittal and family
The Calcutta-born steel magnate says he gave up the distractions of skiing and golf so that he could focus on his work.
Luckily for him, he still has the no doubt cathartic pastime of following Queens Park Rangers, the club in which he holds a 33.3 per cent stake and who are almost certainly destined for relegation from the Premier League this season. His involvement began in December 2007, when he acquired 20 per cent of the West London club after previously being linked with takeovers of Wigan Athletic and Everton. At one point, thanks to Mittal’s involvement, QPR were technically the wealthiest club in the world, and even during the January transfer window were willing to splurge £22 million on players such as Christopher Samba, whose £100,000-a-week wages seem more fitting for a club competing for the Champions’ League rather than struggling to stay out of the Championship. QPR fans are concerned about the long-term impact on the club’s financial viability of such lavish spending. Harry Redknapp, the manager, has said he will stay at Loftus Road to lead the rescue operation on the field.
4. Roman Abramovich
Despite being the most familiar of the Premier League’s foreign owners since he bought Chelsea a decade ago, the Russian oligarch has perhaps had the least to say. The closest we have come to a public utterance, aside from his appearances in his own box at Stamford Bridge, was during his High Court battle with his former associate Boris Berezovksy last year. Abramovich acquired his fortune in Russia in the 1990s; he was one of a small group of businessmen who opportunistically seized control of the country’s vast natural resources. His ownership of Chelsea, which he bought for £140 million, can be told in numbers. He has parted company with eight managers (soon almost certainly to become nine), invested a reported £1.2 billion and has brought a period of unprecedented success to the club.
5. The Liebherr family
The late German-born, Swiss-based industrialist Markus Liebherr did not live to see the club he owned for 13 months beat the likes of Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City at St Mary’s Stadium this season. He bought Southampton 98 days after the club entered administration and was relegated to League One. By the time of his death, aged 62, in 2010, he had steadied the club, which remains in probate. He left the running of Southampton to Nicola Cortese, an Italian banker, and the executive chairman. Liebherr had surprised some in Switzerland, where he was based, by not investing in a Swiss club — his only affinity with Southampton was the cranes that his family business supplied to the city’s docks.
He built the MALI group of engineering businesses, based in Fribourg, Switzerland.
6. Joe Lewis
Nicknamed “the boxer” (in a nod to the American heavyweight Joe Louis), Lewis has a reputation as a pugnacious operator. He follows a colourful cast of investors in Tottenham Hotspur, including Lord Ashcroft, the former Conservative treasurer, and Lord Sugar. It is said that you can always tell when a deal in the City is in the offing when Aviva III, Lewis’s superyacht, arrives on a mooring near Tower Bridge. Lewis, who plays golf with Tiger Woods and includes Sean Connery among his friends, made his initial fortune in London restaurants, then increased it in currency speculation and a global portfolio of property, land and art.
He lived up to his nickname in a recent attempted hostile takeover of his pub and restaurant group Mitchells & Butlers. His investment in Tottenham is managed by Spurs chairman Daniel Levy, but Lewis is once again attempting to turn a London asset into a global business.
7. Malcolm Glazer and family
In Tampa, Florida, Malcolm Glazer is known as “the leprechaun”. In Manchester he is called much worse. Glazer bought the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the American football team, in 1995 for $192 million and acquired United in 2005. Glazer is disliked by the latter’s fans for saddling the world’s most famous club with huge debts, even if they have continued to be successful under his family’s control. Recently, reporters were enquiring whether he had died from a stroke after a rumour spread rapidly on Twitter; he had previously suffered a stroke that impaired his speech and mobility. The day-to-day running of United is left to two of his sons, Avram and Joel. Glazer began his business career at 15 when his father died and he assumed control of his watch business. He went into property before getting rich in junk bonds. Despite his wealth, he boasts of buying his trousers in mid-market stores.
8. Stan Kroenke
“Silent Stan”, as he is dubbed by the press, is the majority owner of Arsenal and the fifth American to own a Barclays Premier League club. Despite his nickname, his empire, Kroenke Sports Enterprises, is anything but inconspicuous. He owns teams in almost all of America’s biggest sports: the St Louis Rams in American football; the Denver Nuggets in basketball; the Colorado Rapids in soccer and the Colorado Avalanche in ice hockey. Kroenke is rarely seen in North London and in his absence has been criticised by frustrated Arsenal supporters for not investing in the club’s playing staff and overseeing decline on the field. Recent reports that a Middle Eastern consortium is trying to buy his stake in a £1.5 billion deal have fallen on stoney ground. Missouri-born, Kroenke made his fortune in real estate and is married to the heiress Ann Walton, niece of the founder of Wal-Mart, whom he met on a skiing trip.
9. Mike Ashley
Stories about Mike Ashley, the man who founded the sportswear company SportsDirect, are legion and sometimes seem too good to be true. He bought Newcastle United for £134 million in 2007 and tried to endear himself to the club’s supporters by wearing a replica shirt and making pre-match appearances in the pub. But the club’s results were poor, managers came and went and he controversially renamed St James’ Park the SportsDirect Arena. But a degree of stability has been installed at the club and more sensible transfer policies established. The club is now financially self-sufficient and the ground proudly bears its famous name again. Ashley began SportsDirect in 1982 from the mortgage on his parents’ bungalow and today it is worth £2.6 billion, has 400 stores and is on the verge of inclusion in the FTSE 100.
10. Farhad Moshiri
With Alisher Usmanov, Farhad Moshiri is the co-owner of Red & White Holdings, a company they formed to buy their initial 15 per cent stake in Arsenal in 2007, although over the past five years, this stake has increased to 29.9 per cent. Moshiri’s family fled from Iran in 1979 and he studied in London before working at Deloitte & Touche. He met Usmanov through a mutual friend in 1989, becoming his financial consultant and establishing a business partnership that would see them both profit from the floatation of the Russian mobile phone company MegaFon as well as from their stakes in Metalloinvest, the mining group. He currently lives in Monaco.
11. Mohamed Al Fayed
Perhaps better known as the former owner of Harrods than as the chairman of Fulham, Mohamed Al Fayed has owned the club since 1997. He oversaw promotion to the Premier League, where the club is now enjoying its 12th consecutive season. The erection of a statue outside Craven Cottage of the pop star Michael Jackson, a personal friend with no affiliation to the club, typified Al Fayed’s style — he told disgruntled supporters they could “go to hell” if they did not like it. The Egyptian sold Harrods to the Qatari royal family in 2010 for £1.5 billion.
12. Randy Lerner
Randy Lerner has a tattoo of the lion from Aston Villa’s badge on the inside of his right ankle as evidence of his dedication to the club. But the American’s commitment has been seriously questioned by Villa supporters this season as a rigorous cost-cutting programme has helped to bring the club to the brink of relegation from the Premier League. Lerner bought Villa for £62.6 million in 2006 with funds from the sale of MBNA Corporation to Bank of America. A confirmed Anglophile, he is an honorary fellow of Clare College, Cambridge, and in 2008 donated £5 million to the National Portrait Gallery. Last year he sold his controlling stake in Cleveland Browns, the American football club he inherited from Alfred, his father, but talks of himself as the “custodian” of Aston Villa, which he considers to be more than “a mere business”.
13. John W. Henry
John W. Henry’s fortune came from a farming background combined with a talent for mathematics that he used as a commodities trader. He was one of a succession of US businessmen who diverted company fortunes into sports investments in the early part of this century. Henry has admitted he knew “virtually nothing” about Liverpool before Fenway Sports Group bought the club for £300 million in 2010. He must have compared Liverpool’s prospects with those of the Boston Red Sox baseball team he bought in 2002. The Red Sox won the World Series in 2004 and 2007, ending an 86-year wait. Henry is yet to have the same impact at Liverpool and the team desperately needs to return to the lucrative Champions League competition.
14. Peter, Denise and John Coates
The son of a miner and the youngest of 14 children, Peter Coates began his working life as a clerk in a pottery and made much of his fortune from Bet365, the online gambling company. Coates, 75, says his ambition to succeed began when he mixed with grammar and public schoolboys during National Service in the Parachute Regiment in the 1950s. Having learnt the ropes in catering by working at a Wimpy franchise, he spotted the opportunity for commercial catering at football venues in the 1960s. He has had two spells as owner of Stoke City, returning in 2005 to rescue it from Icelandic owners. Coates describes the club as an “enormous engine in giving us a feel-good factor” following the decline of the potteries. Bet365 was founded by his son John and daughter Denise as an offshoot of their father’s catering business.
15. Ellis Short
Until last month the American equities trader was one of the most inconspicuous of the Premier League owners. Then Ellis Short appointed Paolo Di Canio as manager of the club in a bid to escape relegation, sparking a huge controversy because of the Italian’s fascist sympathies. The Durham Miners’ Association requested that their banner be returned from the Stadium of Light and David Miliband, the former Foreign Secretary, resigned as the club’s vice-chairman. Sunderland is a far cry from Dallas where Short co-founded Lone Star Funds, a private equity firm. He was the subject of an arrest warrant by South Korean authorities after allegations of stock manipulation over the purchase of Korea Exchange Bank in 2003. Short always denied the charges, which were dropped a year before he became the single-biggest shareholder of the Black Cats. Few knew of him then, but they are beginning to take a greater interest now.
16. Anton Zingarevich and family
The young Russian is the most modern of football owners: he sacked a successful manager for not spending enough of his money. Zingarevich became the newest Premier League owner when he bought a majority stake from Sir John Madejski, the founder of Auto Trader, in January 2012. His father, Boris, owns Ilim Pulp, Russia’s vast pulp and paper firm. Zingarevich, who went to Bearwood College in Berkshire, learnt about football by playing computer games. In 2004 he came close to buying Everton when he was studying at Regent’s Business School in London. He spotted his future wife, the Belarusian Victoria Secrets model Katsia, when he saw a photo of her on the internet.
17=. Tom Werner
Tom Werner was born into New York money, with the Liverpool chairman earning an English degree from Harvard before moving into television production. And if every Scouser really is a comedian, they should at least appreciate his professional background: he helped to develop a glut of successful comedies, including The Cosby Show, that, once syndicated, made him a wealthy man in his own right. Unfortunately for Werner, the club’s fans have been more keen to focus on the suggestion that he — and Liverpool owner John W. Henry — are not really “football men”. Some feel that the co-founders of the Fenway Sports Group prefer baseball and their ownership of the Boston Red Sox.
17=. David Sullivan
Like his West Ham co-chairman David Gold, Sullivan is a lifelong fan of the club — as a teenager, he would sell old matchday programmes outside the ground. And like Gold, much of his personal fortune comes from the porn industry. By the late 1970s Sullivan — who was born in Cardiff but grew up in a Penarth council house before his family moved to London via Yemen — commanded an empire of sex shops, low-budget adult films and pornographic magazines such as Playbirds and Whitehouse, while from 1986-2007 he owned the Daily Sport and Sunday Sport.
In a recent interview he revealed that he and Gold were personally fronting the money for West Ham’s transfers, sustaining a business journey that began with smut and continues with the beautiful game.
19. Tony Fernandes
Queens Park Rangers
AirAsia was in trouble when Tony Fernandes bought it, but his flair for publicity has helped to turn the company around. Since that purchase he has moved into sport with Lotus Racing (now Caterham F1) and QPR. He calls himself a dreamer and does not mind comparisons with his old boss, Sir Richard Branson, who he worked under at Virgin Records. When he bought the West London club from Bernie Ecclestone and Flavio Briatore in August 2011, he called it a “rough diamond”. But QPR is not yet shining. The club made a loss last year, has a growing wage bill and seems certain to be relegated from the Premier League. Fernandes was educated at the London School of Economics and unlike other club owners he revels in the spotlight, engaging with fans on Twitter and in local pubs.
20. Robert Earl
The London-born businessman founded the Planet Hollywood chain and was president of the Hard Rock Café. His subsequent friendships with the likes of Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis brought a touch of Tinseltown to the Toffees boardroom. He became a shareholder in October 2006, buying a 23 per cent stake in the club and helping to finance player deals and loans. Everton continue to manage on a relatively lean budget, however, and Earl has said that he will not invest further in the club.
21. David Gold and family
West Ham United
Gold is an East End boy who grew up within sight of Upton Park. With a gangster father who was in and out of prison, he experienced “abject poverty” as a child and enjoys recounting tales of how he survived dysentery and tuberculosis. But he became a top-shelf tycoon as co-owner of the pornographic magazine publishers Gold Star Publications (which he has since sold) and the brains behind high-street lingerie chain Ann Summers. Having previously been chairman of Birmingham City, Gold became co-chairman of West Ham in 2010.
22. Dave Whelan and family
Expect frequent re-runs of the 1960 FA Cup Final in the next fortnight as Dave Whelan prepares to lead Wigan Athletic out against Manchester City at Wembley on May 11. Whelan was playing for Blackburn Rovers against Wolverhampton Wanderers in that match 53 years ago when he suffered a broken leg. He took over JJ Bradburns, a fishing tackle shop, and turned it into JJB Sports, a £1.1 billion floated company that went into administration last year. With his leg still in plaster after his Wembley injury, Whelan sold toiletries at Blackburn market. He made his first £1 million with the sale of a chain of discount stores to the founder of Morrisons. Whelan has done much for sport in the North West. As well as taking Wigan Athletic into the Premier League from the third division and building the club’s stadium, he rescued Wigan Warriors, the rugby league club, from insolvency in 1997. Ill health forced him to sell his stake in JJB for £190 million in 2007.
23=. Jeremy Peace
West Bromwich Albion
Karren Brady, the vice-chairman of West Ham United, recently wrote in her Sun column: “Ask anyone other than a West Brom fan who Jeremy Peace is and they might well take a tilt at a junior government minister or Church of England bishop.” Her point was well made. Although Peace has been the chairman of West Bromwich Albion for more than a decade, his background is extremely Establishment, at least by the standards of football. Peace is a former Shrewsbury schoolboy and a stockbroker who worked in the City as the chairman and the chief executive of a photographic and video company called Quadrant Group. He was also one of the early investors in the UK telecommunications market in the 1980s. To fans of West Bromwich Albion he is a “general business superhero”, or so says the parody Twitter account run in his name. He has showed a ruthless side to his character, however, with the sacking of Roberto Di Matteo as manager in 2011 and his refusal to sell striker Peter Odemwingie earlier this season.
23=. Martin and Louisa Morgan
Swansea City is the only top-flight club where the supporters’ trust is a significant shareholder and has a director on the board. The principal stake is owned by husband and wife Martin and Louisa Morgan, both from Swansea. However, their teenage son Charlie briefly enjoyed a higher profile in January when, while working as a ball boy, he was kicked in the ribs by a Chelsea player after attempting to waste time by diving on the ball. His parents’ rise to national prominence was more gradual. Martin Morgan left school with a few O levels and sold linen in a market. He worked as a welder, then as a travel rep at resorts across Europe before launching a travel agency with his wife. Seven years later, in 1999, they became millionaires when they sold it for £40 million to Thomson. The couple have helped to regenerate the city, opening a boutique hotel. More controversial is their attempt to build a mansion on the Gower Peninsula.
25. Bill Kenwright
One of the few remaining owner-fans, Bill Kenwright is also one of the most colourful. The impresario, who once acted in Coronation Street, is one of the West End’s most successful theatre producers. He became chairman of Everton in 2004 having been on the board since 1989, but admits to not having enjoyed watching them for a decade. He says he sometimes has regrets about buying the club he supported as a boy and that he awaits the day when the club can be financed in a way that might make them successful again. Kenwright is the son of a Liverpudlian builder and enjoys telling stories of his schooldays with Paul McCartney and George Harrison. He views his style of chairmanship as dying out in the face of super-rich foreign owners. Despite his limited investment, Kenwright has established a durable relationship with David Moyes, Everton’s manager.
26. Delia Smith and family
The only club owner on this list who could get away with selling cupcakes at home matches, Delia Smith has successfully managed to promote a football club and sustain her position as a celebrity chef. She left school at 16 with no qualifications and worked as a dishwasher at a Paddington restaurant. At the Daily Mirror, where she was a cookery writer, she met Michael Wynn-Jones, her husband and the joint majority shareholder of Norwich City. She has sold 21 million copies of her various books, the first of which came out in the early Seventies. At 71, she continues to innovate. Her three-year deal with Waitrose ended in February and she rejected offers from the BBC. Her association with Norwich, now re-established in the Premier League, has survived her excruciating half-time rallying call to fans at a match in 2005.
The Daily Rich Lists are based on the estimates of the minimum wealth of individuals or families. The actual size of their fortunes may be much larger than our figure. The valuations were carried out at the beginning of January. We measure identifiable wealth including land, property and shares. We include people who are not British citizens but who live and work in Britain and also people who are married to Britons or have strong links with the UK.
Ian Coxon, The Sunday Times Rich List ed