Brexit backer tops Edinburgh’s rich list - overtaking Harry Potter author JK Rowling

THE billionaire reportedly responsible for introducing Arron Banks to Nigel Farage’s campaign to leave the European Union has topped a league table of Edinburgh’s richest people for 2019.

Friday, 10th May 2019, 12:00 am
Updated Friday, 10th May 2019, 1:00 am
Jim Mellon. Pic: Lucy Ray/Daily Mail/REX/Shutterstock (2340919a)

Capital-born businessman Jim Mellon was estimated to be worth around £1.1 billion – placing him tenth on the overall UK rankings – in the latest Sunday Times rich list.

Mellon, who is chairman of the Isle of Man based Manx Financial Group of which Banks owns 25 per cent, saw his wealth rise by around £100 million over the last 12 months – placing him ahead of Harry Potter author JK Rowling in the standings.

The prominent Brexit backer is understood to have donated £100,000 to the Leave.EU campaign when the political group began as TheKnow.EU in July 2015 – describing it as an “anti-politics” movement.

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JK Rowling. Pic: PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo.

Mellon told financial news giant Bloomberg he had “a good day” financially following the Brexit vote in June 2016.

He made his initial fortune after the sale of Thornton Management in 1988, making him a millionaire at the age of 28 and later became a billionaire in the financial sector with interests in Uranium mining.

He most recently founded the biotechnology firm Juvenescence alongside four business partners, with the firm specialising in anti-ageing science and research.

The company raised more than $50m in its first round of funding.

Glen Gordon and family remain the richest in Scotland, according to the list, after enjoying another year of rising profits at their Banffshire–based Glenfiddich distillery.

The enterprise is now run by the fifth generation of the 1887 founder, William Grant, with Glen Gordon, 61, overseeing a £310m increase in the family’s wealth in the last year bringing the total value of the operation to an estimated £2.7bn.

Author Rowling saw her own wealth increase by £50m over the 12-month period, despite courting controversy over representation of gay characters in the Harry Potter series.

The release of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, the second in the Fantastic Beasts film trilogy, helped push her wealth to £750m, placing her ahead of Sir Angus Grossart in the standings.

Cheshire-based businessman Brian Kennedy ranked fourth on the list, with an estimated wealth of around £275m.

The former owner of Sale Sharks rugby union club built his fortune in the home improvement industry and currently heads up finance firm Latium Enterprises.

In 2007, he helped fund the hunt for missing toddler Madeleine McCann through his philanthropic Brian Kennedy Trust and appeared in the Netflix documentary surrounding her disappearance.

Kennedy, who attended Tynecastle High School in the Capital, was linked with a move to buy Hibernian in 1998, though the deal never materialised, while a similar bid for administration-stricken Rangers in 2012 also fell through.

Richard Scott, the Duke of Buccleuch, placed fifth despite seeing his fortune increase by £6m to £230m in the last year.

The Duke, thought to be Scotland’s largest landowner at around 240,000 acres, owns the 18th century Dalkeith Palace in Midlothian.

Algerian-born Hamid Guedroudj, who founded engineering software business Petroleum Experts in 1990, is a new entry on the rich list after the firm helped him amass a £230m wealth.

The company provides oil firms with digital mapping tools to improve production efficiency and has clients across the world including BP, Chevron and Shell.

Ross Development Trust chairman Norman Springford, who previously owned the Apex Hotels group, fell two places to seventh after his fortune fell by an estimated £12m over the last 12 
months.

Skyscanner co-founders Bonamy Grimes and Gareth Williams both claimed a place on the list – three years after the pair and business partner Barry Smith sold the flight comparison website to Chinese giants Ctrip.com for an estimated £1.4bn.

Williams saw his personal wealth rise by £3m in the previous year, taking his fortune to £223m, while Grimes retained his place with a reported wealth of £142m.

Investment manager Walter Scott, founder of the global equity management business Walter Scott and Partners, fell one place to ninth on the list, despite seeing his own personal wealth rise by £1m over the last year.

Ex-Rangers owner Sir David Murray saw his fortune increase by £1m according to the ranking, putting him 11th on the list.

And Hibernian owner Sir Tom Farmer – who famously saved the Easter Road club from receivership during the attempted takeover by Hearts chairman Wallace Mercer in the 1990s – rounded off the top 12 with a personal fortune of £126m.

Sir Ian Wood rises up a rank in the Scottish top 20 to take second place this year thanks to a £51m increase in wealth. He retains a 0.9 per cent stake, worth £33.7m, in Wood, which he founded and ran for 50 years before retiring in 2012.

Sir Ian also saw profits of £3.3m at his JW Holdings fishing operation which had £22.7m of assets in 2017. His pub and hotel interests have shown strong performances too. Beyond the boardroom, Wood continues as Chancellor of Robert Gordon University, his 15th year, and the family’s foundation paid out £40m to charitable projects in northeast Scotland, other parts of the UK and Africa.

Wood isn’t the only big giver in the Top 20, however. Ranked sixth, siblings Trond Mohn and Marit Mohn Westlake donated £25m to Imperial College London last year, funding research into childhood diseases.

After selling their family company Framo, a manufacturer of cargo pumps, in 2014 for £1.1bn, the pair became renowned for their benevolent donations, and are Scotland’s biggest risers this year thanks to an increase in wealth of £602m.

Up by £49m this year, the Thomson family continues the success of the Beano, the world’s oldest weekly comic, by taking it on a 40 theatre UK tour with the infamous Dennis the Menace and hound Gnasher finding their voices in a musical.

A Minnie the Minx television series is also in development.

Originally a family shipping firm, the Dundee-based publisher, DC Thomson, is responsible for a number of publications including the Evening Telegraph and has assets worth £1.26bn.

Sir Brian Souter and sister Dame Ann Gloag saw their stake in transport operation Stagecoach rise by £37.2m to £243.4m in the last year. Having founded the company in the 1980s, the siblings have seen their wealth increase by £50m in the last year ranking them 12th in the national Rich List.

Robert Watts, compiler of the list, said Scotland had bucked the trend for the rest of UK.

He said: “Many Rich Listers are this year nursing big losses due to the uncertainty over Brexit, turbulence on the stock market and the enormous change sweeping through our high streets.”

“But more than half of our Scottish Rich List have seen their fortunes rise over the past 12 months – that’s a higher proportion than other parts of the UK.”

He continued: “This may cheer those pushing for an independent Scotland, who will want to show that there is plenty more to the Scottish economy than North Sea oil.”