Contact Us

These Are The 10 Richest Self-Made People In U.K. Property


The Sunday Times published its annual Rich List this week, and remarked upon an interesting change in the makeup of the wealthiest people in Britain.

When the list was first published in 1989, less than half of those listed had made their money themselves; most inherited fortunes. Today that has reversed, with 94% of those on the list having created their own wealth.

The top ranks of real estate are not quite as balanced: the Duke of Westminster and the Earl Cadogan, with vast inherited London estates, are still among the top echelons of the country’s property owners.

But there are some remarkable stories among U.K. real estate’s richest. Here are the top 10, excluding those landed estates and those like the Reuben brother who made their fortunes in other areas and subsequently invested in property.

The Barclay brothers: David and Frederick

1. The Barclay Brothers

The Sunday Times puts the wealth of Sir David and Sir Frederick Barclay at £7.4B, not bad for having left school at 16 to work for GE. They moved into property in 1975 and hotels have been their mainstay. Their most high-profile asset is the Ritz in London.

2. John Grayken

Lone Star founder John Grayken splits his time between the U.K. and Ireland, and his £4.8B fortune makes him the 28th wealthiest person in Britain. His wealth is almost entirely tied up in Lone Star, which is unique among large private equity firms in having a single owner that exercises almost complete control.

3. The Livingstone Brothers

Worth £3.8B, Ian and Richard Livingstone have perhaps the most diverse and dispersed property portfolio of anyone on this list. U.K. hotels and offices sit alongside a huge new city being built in Panama, and they are also the first foreign investors to have been allowed to build in Cuba since the island became communist in the 1950s. They are developing a luxury hotel and apartments there. They are the sons of an Ealing dentist.

Sol and Eddie Zakay

4. The Zakay Brothers

Israeli-born Sol and Eddie Zakay started their Topland property empire in the 1980s and are now worth £3.4B, according to the Sunday Times. They have focused on sale-leasebacks with retailers and on hotels, including the Royal Crescent in Bath.

5. Mark Pears and family

Mark Pears was 21 when he took over the property business his grandfather founded, and has grown it to £3.2B. The largest part of the business is property outsourcing giant Telereal Trillium, which the company estimates houses 1% of U.K. employees. Famously publicity shy, no photos of Pears or the family exist in the public domain, a reported attempt to guard against kidnapping.

6. Sammy Tak Lee

Lee has been in the U.K. property headlines of late after he built a 25% stake in Shaftesbury, the listed owner of Carnaby Street and much of Chinatown. It is often mooted that he would try to buy the company to combine it with his own Chinatown holdings. The deal that set him on the way to his £3B fortune was buying the 16-acre Langham Estate in Knightsbridge for £75M in 1994, the value of which has grown exponentially. His family situation is lively.

John Whittaker

7. John Whittaker

Peel Holdings Chairman John Whittaker became the North of England’s second billionaire earlier this century, and his fortune now stands at £2.3B. He bought a series of industrial companies with lots of land and parlayed that into a North West property empire. He sold the Trafford Centre to Intu in 2010 for £1.6B, the U.K.’s largest-ever single-asset real estate deal, and still owns 25% of the company.

8. The Lazari family

Chris Lazari, who died in 2015, told Forbes in an interview that he left Cyprus at the age of 15 in the early 1960s with £20 in his pocket. He started a fashion business, but quickly moved into property, where he built up a £2B fortune, with his sons now overseeing the company. More than 90% of the company’s 2.8M SF portfolio is in the West End.

9. Benny Freshwater and family

Benny’s father Osias Freshwater fled Nazi Germany and started the company that became Deajan Holdings, now worth £958M. The family’s wealth as a whole is estimated at £1.6B, and assets include Africa House on the Aldwych.

10. Eddie and Malcolm Healy

Another pair of billionaire brothers from the North, Eddie and Malcolm Healy (Eddie in particular) have been innovators in property. Eddie developed the Meadowhall shopping centre in Sheffield, and used the profits to build Centro, a massive shopping centre in Germany’s Ruhr Valley. The Sunday Times estimates their worth at £1.6B.