Friday, March 23, 2018

Friday Feature Book Review: The Richest of the Rich by Philip Beresford (Sunday Times) "英国の裕福な" : フィリップ・ベレスフォード

How many millionaires and billionaires in the UK come from inherited wealth? How many are self made? How many are foreign born? This is a great book by the Sunday Times that gathers the richest 250 wealthy people in the UK since 1066. The author Philip Beresford, is the same editor for "The Rich List" popular within the Sunday Times. Make no mistake, this is a list of very large fortunes, in fact billionaire level. Some are in fact much larger than many living billionaires in the UK today. Oddly many at the top of this list benefited greatly from the 1066 battles and the Norman conquests of those times. In fact, 6 names are directly connected, and therefore highly rewarded, as a result of winning the "Battle of Hastings". To the victors in battle, go the spoils of war, clearly. The rewards are not gold, but mainly real estate as they were often granted large holdings of land.

Many of this class have inherited their wealth. In fact 146 of the 250 listed came from family money. At least 76 on the list are from very "old money" that often peaked in the middle ages 500+ years ago. We are talking about billions of pounds, not mere millions. The size and the scope of wealth amassed is enormous. The author works with an academic William Rubenstein who find a great way of comparing the wealth of owners over 1000+ years ago. They develop a conversion of the Net National Income and compare it to today. By dominating a large percentage of the national economy, a figure can be found. 

Some of my favorite profiles include Edward III, known as the "Black Prince". I did not know he was actually real, and assumed he was a myth from the knights of old. He lived around 1330-1376 and had a NNI wealth of 3.14% of the UK economy, some 2.7Million pounds worth or 34 Billion pounds in today's value. He distinguished himself as a warrior at age 16 during the hundred years war. It seems a shame he died an invalid at age 46. Others include Alan Rufus, who took in 7.3% of NNI or 81 Billion pounds in today's value. It helps to back a winner, and he was there on the battlefield in 1066, with William the Conqueror. 

The Top 3 Takeaways from this book that impact any reader are:

1) The UK has a wealth class that certainly began from the year 1066. If you were on the winning side of that battle, your family often became very rich indeed.
2) This largely real estate based system of wealth first generated income from farming and then later on rental income. Income tax became a difficult hurdle for many families to overcome. Many lost their wealth as a result.
3) The inherited wealth from this land owning class still exists today. Various noble families still charge rent within many areas of the UK included top rents within London.

Sir Richard Branson is one of the few more modern self made men in the list. He is worth over 3.1 Billion pounds, and seems to me one of the few bright spots in the 21 century. His transport and media empire and now taking on a more environmentally friendly tone, and new businesses with that theme are expected in the years to come. Foreign born billionaires, in fact 17 of them, make the list in the more modern era. Roman Abramovich, 10 Billion pounds, Simon Halabi, 3 Billion pounds, and Lakshmi Mittal,19 Billion pounds. They all certainly shine brightly on this UK list. There were too many other great characters to mention here, but safe to say, all had great backgrounds to read about. They were all quite interesting and very entertaining reading. Highly Recommended!

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