Rich Listers prove top givers

By Candice Krieger and Marcus Dysch, April 30, 2009
Gerald Ronson (Photo: John Rifkin)

Gerald Ronson (Photo: John Rifkin)

Five of Britain’s ten richest people are Jewish, according to this year’s Sunday Times Rich List.

Their performance could prompt the creation of a separate section focusing solely on the country’s wealthiest Jews, according to compiler Philip Beresford. He said it could be produced “at the drop of a hat” for the 2010 edition.

But the economic downturn has seen huge losses to even the biggest fortunes.

Chabad donor and London-based diamond mogul Lev Leviev, who was last year ranked 21st with a wealth of £2.5bn, is not on this year’s list.

Last month, his Africa-Israel holding company announced a 2008 loss of £800m, and he has recently sold assets including Tel Aviv’s sophisticated Ramat Aviv shopping mall.

Mr Beresford would not comment on individual cases but noted: “I have been unbelievably severe on debt. Anyone in talks with banks about debts in their businesses has been turfed out.”

Roman Abramovich, Britain’s second richest man, is left with £7bn, down £4.7bn on 2008, making him the second biggest faller.

Despite losing £500m, retailer Sir Philip Green and Lady Green rise three places to sixth with a collective £3.8bn. Israeli father-and-son shipping and property duo Sammy and Eyal Ofer are worth £2.7bn and are eighth. Eyal Ofer bought the Ramat Aviv mall from Mr Leviev.

Tottenham Hotspur owner Joe Lewis and property developer brothers David and Simon Reuben are joint ninth, but have lost £300m and £1.8bn respectively in the past 12 months.

Bicom chairman Poju Zabludowicz is down £500m and is joint 18th with £1.5bn. Norwood president Richard Desmond is the 15th highest faller, having seen his fortune slashed in half. He is now worth £950m.

Lily Safra (Photo: AP)

Lily Safra (Photo: AP)

But Mr Beresford had little sympathy for those who had lost vast sums. “The pain endured by the rich, of whatever faith, is nothing compared to the pain of people on the street.

“This is only a few zeros off the theoretical valuation. But it’s real pain and misery for those who lose their jobs.”

Praising the work of self-made millionaires, he said: “The Gerald Ronsons of this world create the jobs that we all need for the future, not the government, in this day and age.”

Jewish donors were among the top charitable givers, according to the proportion of their total wealth pledged.

Leonard Polonsky, stakeholder in Isle of Man-based wealth management company Handard Global, is sixth; he gave £25.7m to Jewish organisations.

He is joined in the top 20 by hedge fund veteran Stanley Fink and Lily Safra, widow of Swiss-born banker and philanthropist Edmond Safra.

CST chairman Gerald Ronson donated £10.5m to education, medical and arts charities.

Lord Rothschild, property tycoon Benzion Freshwater, financiers Sir Ronald Cohen and Jeremy Coller, and entrepreneur Richard Caring, also made it into the top 50 givers.

Nat Rothschild is the second highest new entrant on the Rich List, boasting a fortune of £330m.

Last updated: 4:10pm, April 30 2009