Duke is still the richest man in Northumberland

The Duke of Northumberland
The Duke of Northumberland

The Duke of Northumberland is the seventh richest man in the North East, with a fortune of £370million.

According to the Sunday Times Rich List for 2017, the Duke’s wealth increased by £5million over the last year, although he is down one place in the list,

Duncan Davidson

Duncan Davidson

Duncan Davidson, founder of Persimmon, one of the UK’s largest house-building businesses, who lives near Wooler, and his family are at 18 in the North East list, also down one place from last year.

They have a wealth of £143million, down £5million on 2016.

According to the list, to be published in the Sunday Times this Sunday, Mike Ashley is still the richest man in the North East.

Sports Direct and Newcastle United owner Ashley, 52, has a fortune now put at £2.16billion. However, he has experienced a tough 12 months with his Sports Direct warehouses attracting negative media attention due to staff working conditions.

The value of the Nottinghamshire-based operation is now £1.73billion, down from £4.5billion a year ago, and Ashley’s stake is now valued at £980million, down £270million over the same period.

Ashley remains richer than both owners of rival North East football clubs Sunderland and Middlesbrough combined. Sunderland owner Ellis Short, second in the list, and Middlesbrough owner Steve Gibson, in tenth place, are valued at £1.2billion and £195million respectively, with both individuals having experienced no change in their wealth over the past 12 months.

The Fenwick retail fortune continues to grow with Mark Fenwick and family now standing at £730million, up £30million on last year, making them the third richest in the North East.

Fenwick will soon step down as chairman of the department store chain which made a record £44.2million profit on £302million of sales in 2015-16. He is to be replaced by Richard Pennycook, a former Co-op boss and the first non-family member to run the company.

With £595.8million of net assets, the business is worth £630million but does face an uphill struggle to compete with a changing retail landscape where out-of-town shopping centres and online retailers are becoming ever more popular. The Fenwicks also have a property portfolio worth over £100million.

Peter Stephenson and family become the fourth richest in the North East because of a £232million wealth increase in the past 12 months.

Stephenson founded Able UK in 1966 and has built it into a market leading marine decommissioning and land development business. He is currently investing £450million in a marine energy park on the Humber estuary’s south bank, offering state-of-the-art facilities to make wind turbines. Able UK’s parent company made a £14.3million profit on £21.2million sales in 2015 and is worth its assets of £432million. The Stephenson family has full ownership.

Philanthropist and financier Jonathan Ruffer ranks sixth in the region this year with a fortune put at £406million, up £36million on last year.

Ruffer, who is currently converting Auckland Castle into a major tourist destination, has bankrolled the spectacular Kynren show, staged for the first time over 15 nights last summer with more than 1,000 local volunteers. The community-led show played to more than 100,000 people in a field beneath the castle and returns to Bishop Auckland again in July as part of Ruffer’s project to help regenerate the area.

Rock star Sting, 65, remains one of the wealthiest in the region after his North American tour with Peter Gabriel last year pulled in $28million of box office receipts.

The ex-Police band member is currently midway through a 70-plus gig tour promoting his new album, 57th & 9th. He and his wife Trudie Styler, 63, have a portfolio of property which includes houses in New York, Tuscany and Malibu, and he remains worth £185million.

Chris Whitfield, 52, is a new entry to The Sunday Times Rich List and is worth £161million.

Whitfield has a stake of more than 78 per cent in UK Land Estates, which owns and operates 25 commercial estates across the Northeast. Tenants include Rolls-Royce, HSBC and Premier Inn. The business had assets valued at £87.5million in 2015 and is worth £200million in all.

Robert Watts, the compiler of The Sunday Times Rich List, said: “This year’s larger than ever Rich List lays bare how the fortunes of Britain’s richest 1,000 people have fared amid the astonishing events of the past 12 months.

“Our North East Rich List demonstrates how Britain’s super rich now come from all backgrounds. Mike Ashley once worked as a squash coach and Duncan Bannatyne in the Royal Navy – both now feature alongside the Duke of Northumberland as the region’s wealthiest people.

“It’s striking how we’re seeing fortunes from more unusual sectors. Gone are the days when finance, property and a handful of other industries dominated the Rich List. Our North East Rich List includes entrepreneurs who have built fortunes from car dealing, waxed jackets and even online bingo.”