LONDON: The fortunes of Britain’s billionaires rose by more than a fifth last year despite the pandemic, according to figures from the latest Sunday Times Rich List released on Friday.
Ukranian-born businessman Leonard Blavatnik was named as the richest person in the country with a fortune of £23 billion ($32.6 billion), according to figures released ahead of the list’s full publication on Sunday.
The rich list, seen as the country’s most authoritative source on the UK’s wealthiest individuals, found the number of billionaires rose by 24 percent to 171 over the last year, despite the economic turbulence caused by the pandemic.
The total wealth of the billionaires increased by 21.7 percent to £597.2 billion over the same period, it added.
Robert Watts, the compiler of the rich list, said that the pandemic created “lucrative opportunities for many online retailers, social networking apps and computer games tycoons.
“The fact many of the super-rich grew so much wealthier at a time when thousands of us have buried loved ones and millions of us worried for our livelihoods makes this a very unsettling boom,” he added.
Oil and media investor Blavatnik increased his wealth by £7.2 billion, taking the top spot from inventor and entrepreneur James Dyson, whose wealth increased by £100 million to £16.3 billion.
“The fact that billionaires got even richer as the coronavirus ran wild and the economy cratered rather undermines the myth that extreme wealth concentration has any benefits for anybody beyond the super rich,” said Luke Hildyard, head of the High Pay Center think tank.
Other well known names to appear in the top 10 include Alisher Usmanov, whose fortune rose by £1.7 billion after selling his 30 percent stake in Arsenal football club, and Chelsea’s Russian owner Roman Abramovich.