Diamond dealers shine as property slumps for this year’s Rich Listers

By Rachel Fletcher, May 1, 2008
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Dazzling earnings among Jews in the jewellery trade is highlighted in the new Sunday Times Rich List.

In a list of the wealthiest jewellers published alongside the overall Rich List, five of the top 10 are Jewish. Nicky Oppenheimer, Lev Leviev, Laurence Graff and Benny Steinmetz are the top four, with Danny Fiszman at number seven. Mr Oppenheimer and Mr Leviev, new entries this year, are respectively estimated to be worth £2,870 million and £2,500 million.

Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is the richest in the football table and second in the overall list, with a calculated wealth of £11,700 million. He is beaten only by Asian steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal.

Fifth in the football list is former Tottenham Hotspur chairman Sir Alan Sugar, the 92nd richest overall with an estimated £830 million. Ex-Arsenal vice-chairman David Dein is 24th in the soccer table with £80 million, placing 969th in the general list.

Retailers Sir Philip and Lady Green are ninth overall at £4,330 million, one place ahead of property-developer brothers David and Simon Reuben with £4,300 million.

Sammy Ofer and his son Eyal (shipping and property) are 15th with £3,336 million. Mr Oppenheimer, Joe Lewis (foreign investment), David Khalili (art and property) and Lev Leviev are 18th, 19th and 21st equal.

Mr Graff, Simon Halabi (property and health clubs) and Bicom chairman Poju Zabludowicz (property and hotels) share 31st place, followed by Richard Desmond (35th), property men Ian and Richard Livingstone (38th), Mr Steinmetz (39th) and River Island boss Bernard Lewis (43rd).

Property people Mark Pears and family and Eddie and Sol Zakay are joint 47th. Lord Rothschild and his son Nat are 53rd.

Stanley and Barbara Fink, Mathias Kraus, Lord Gavron and Sir Ronald Cohen feature in the givers’ list. Mr Kraus and Sir Ronald have Jewish charities listed among their beneficiaries.

Mr Khalili, Vincent Tchenguiz, Sir Philip and Lady Green and Robert Kauffman are high on the “fallers” list, with revaluation, the credit crunch, retail gloom and share losses cited as reasons for their drop.

Property investor David Pearl, ranked 308th, told the JC that changes in the property market “affect everybody. Things are harder than they were six to nine months ago in the property world.”

He pointed out that interest rates were higher and the amounts that could be borrowed were lower.

Property developer Gerald Ronson, ranked 325th with his family at £250 million, told the JC: “I don’t think you can generalise with the property business. Outside London, new sales are 50 per cent down and inside London it’s 25 to 30 per cent.”

Nick Leslau, a property businessman ranked joint 397th, said: “The commercial property business has, for bigger lot sizes, practically dried up. Liquidity is as bad as I’ve ever seen it.

“House-price reductions are a shortterm phenomenon. We need one million homes in this country and are building 80,000 at best this year. Planning is a disaster for new homes as local authorities try to outdo each other with more affordable housing and better green credentials, dramatically increasing the cost of construction, further restricting supply.

“I fear the ramifications of the global credit issues will be felt for some considerable time.”

Nonetheless, Rich List compiler Philip Beresford saw it as “a very good year for Jewish money, both new and old. What we are seeing is the primacy of London, particularly as a global finance centre. Israeli tycoons such as Benny Steinmetz or Nicky Oppenheimer are coming here because it is the best place for them to run their operations.

“The rise of the diamondocracy is serving the needs of the new BRIC economy, such as India, China and Russia.

“Plus, there are the old property tycoons — your Nick Leslaus and Gerald Ronsons, who are as smart as ever.”

Last updated: 10:45am, May 7 2008