Britain’s richest double their wealth in 10 years with big gambles paying off

Their assets have increased from £258bn in 2009, a rise of more than 112 per cent, according to the 2015 Sunday Times Rich List. The past 12 months saw the biggest bounce for the UK super-rich in six years, and London now has 80 billionaires, up from 72 last year – more than any other world city.

Leading the pack for the first time is Ukrainian born petro-billionaire Len Blavatnik, whose London address is a £41m residence in Kensington Palace Gardens. Now a US citizen, Blavatnik gambled a third of his fortune on acquiring the ailing Warner Music empire four years ago, at a time when piracy was demolishing recorded music revenues.

The venture is beginning to pay off. Warner’s revenues have bounced back, thanks to the burgeoning popularity of music streaming services. The overall estimate of Blavatnik’s holdings, including stakes in aluminium and chemicals companies, property and cash, increased by £3bn to a net £13.17bn. His rise has pushed Indian automotive kings the Hinduja brothers into second place, despite a £1.1bn increase in their reported wealth.

Two UK business families were among the year’s biggest gainers. Galen and George Weston, the British born Anglo-Canadians who own Selfridges department store and Associated British Foods, makers of Twinings and Ovaltine, shot into third place with a £3.7bn rise. Meanwhile, Denise Coates and family, who control bookmakers Bet365, are thought to have doubled their holdings to £2.35bn.

Sir James Dyson and family jumped from 29th to joint 22nd place, with a £500m lift pushing their reported wealth to £3.5bn. Dyson now holds 25,000 acres of land, having recently bought a 1,200-hectare (3,000-acre) estate in Lincolnshire, making him a bigger landlord than the Queen.

Richard Branson returned to the top 20 with a reported £500m increase to £4.1bn, thanks in part to rail: Virgin Trains won an extension on its west coast franchise and jointly secured the right to operate the east coast line.

While homegrown fortunes are faring well, the Rich List remains dominated by entrepreneurs from outside the UK – just five of the top 20 fortunes are in the hands of British-born individuals. Of the 117 billionaires who feature in the list, 62 are British.