Business Blog

Investors bet on breeding success

Vexour Garth in the ring at auctionVexour Garth sold for a record amount in Stirling, Scotland, last year

What do you do if you want to try your luck on a more unusual investment? Fine wine, fine art - or how about fine breeds?

Lying on a bed of freshly plumped golden hay, with a trough containing the best animal feed money can buy, Vexour Garth must be thinking he's hit the big time.

At just two years old Garth perhaps has good reason to feel rather pleased with himself.

He holds the title of the most expensive Charolais bull on the planet.

Start Quote

I imagine the American investors who bought Vexour Garth are looking to sell his straws of semen for between £50 and £100 per straw”

End Quote Philip Halhead Chairman, British Cattle Breeders Club

A private American firm paid £105,000 for the 1,000-kilo bull at auction last autumn.

"Economics is at the back of it, there's no denying it," enthuses Ray Firminger, the farmer who reared Garth at a farm in Kent, in south-east England.

"They haven't bought him just for his looks. They bought him for his resale price, if you like to think of him as a commodity. His resale value is very high."

At auction houses around the globe investors are showing an increased appetite for buying pedigree cattle and sheep at premium prices - and world records have been tumbling.

Last year, a Texel ram went for £231,000, while at the Blackface Ram sale at Dalmally Auction Mart a lamb sold for £9,000, equalling the breed record.

Million pound earner
Ray Firminger and Vexour GarthFarmer Ray Firminger says Garth will be treated like a king

So why all the fuss? Investors are pinning their hopes on the animals being top sires, producing large cows and sheep with high quality lean meat, or able to produce large yields of milk.

Start Quote

The economy has driven the price of commodities up in the last five years, including the price of elite cattle”

End Quote Joe Epperly North American Limousin Foundation

At an auction house in Lancaster, trade is brisk. A herd of Belgium Blues is being showcased in the ring under the watchful eye of Philip Halhead, chairman of the British Cattle Breeders Club.

"I imagine the American investors who bought Vexour Garth are looking to sell his straws of semen for between £50 and £100 per straw," says Mr Halhead, reflecting on Garth's record-breaking sale.

"To put that in context, every 10 days to a fortnight in the bull-stud Garth should produce 500-1000 straws of saleable product. So do the maths.

"It's not always that every bull produces high quality semen. That's still the gamble they've got to play with. But if it pays off, they will see a massive return on their investment."

Lucky break

Garth's previous owners, Sarah and Jan Boomaars, followed in the Boomaars' family farming tradition when they decided to buy, rear and sell the record-breaking bull with the help of farmer Ray Firminger.

Start Quote

Outside investors have... been intrigued about the cattle business and the opportunity to get involved in genetics”

End Quote Doug Parke Cattle investment broker

"The Charolais breed was our first choice when we bought our farm in 2003 because there was good demand for Charolais bulls and we could see a long-term future in the stock," says Sarah Boomaars.

With a career in finance, Jan could see the potential for rearing pedigree cattle for sale in the UK, or exporting bull semen all over the world.

"We got lucky with Garth, but you never know how the demand for a certain breed will go down with buyers. It can depend on all sorts of things, particularly how flush people in the industry are feeling at the time," says Mrs Boomaars.

"While there are many rewarding high points, there are certainly times when it feels more stressful than working in the City," she says.

Saving money

Rising demand for red meat from emerging economies such as Brazil and China is one of the factors driving the prices for pedigree cattle, not just in the UK but also in the United States.

Auctioneer at a Highland cattle saleExperts suggest you do your homework before considering any investments

"The economy has driven the price of commodities up in the last five years, including the price of elite cattle," says Joe Epperly from the North American Limousin Foundation, which monitors sales of the highly-muscled Limousin breed.

"Along with that, the US has seen a resurgence in beef exports. This has yielded some of the highest prices for cattle in history, especially cattle with the top genetic potential."

With rising global wheat and feed prices, farmers are also increasingly faced with the dilemma of how to produce more food from fewer resources. For many, looking at their breeding stock could provide the answer.

"Using the highest performance rams and bulls is a sure-fire way to speed up on-farm improvement," says Philip Halhead.

It costs as much to feed a lower quality animal as a higher quality one, and Mr Halhead says farmers are trying to get value for money: "Using less wheat to produce a kilo of meat is something the pig and poultry industry fine-tuned years ago. Now it's the turn of the livestock industry,"

No dead certs

So how can people who do not have a farm or live anywhere near the countryside beef up their own investment portfolio?

Doug Parke of DP Sales Management in Kentucky has been brokering deals for the past 30 years with people who want to invest or buy a stake in the pedigree Simmental breed of cattle.

Screen grab from DP Sales ManagementDoug Parke's firm also offers breeders the chance to buy bull semen

"The outside investors have often been from the construction industry or from banking. They've invested money because I think they've been intrigued about the cattle business and the opportunity to get involved in genetics," recalls Mr Parke.

Of course, investing in pedigree cattle does not come without its risks. There is always a chance that your investment could be stolen or even die unexpectedly. Farming is notorious for its unpleasant surprises.

It is also important to make sure that you do not hand over your hard-earned cash without doing some thorough research.

"Reputation is the number one thing. Research the pedigree livestock you want to get involved in. Talk to some of the main successful breeders within that breed and get as much advice from cattle associations as possible," cautions Mr Parke.

Even with those precautions, as with any alternative investment, you can lose all your money with no chance of compensation.

At his home in the south of England, Vexour Garth is taking it easy. "He's waited on hand and foot now," says farmer Ray Firminger.

"His bedding is kept clean, he's on the best food and monitored all the time. If he coughs or sneezes the vet comes in and checks him out to make sure he's ok.

"If you're a top-end bull like that you're treated like a king."

  738 Hits
738 Hits

Microsoft's Steve Ballmer: Should he stay as boss?

Steve Ballmer, CEO, Microsoft

Related Stories

Following some goofy and exuberant public presentations, Microsoft's chief executive Steve Ballmer is certainly a larger than life character.

But with Microsoft having had to play catch up to the rise of smartphones and tablets, some critics have called for Mr Ballmer to resign and let somebody else take the company forward.

A lacklustre reaction to its latest operating system Windows 8, which was much-hyped but failed to impress, has also turned the spotlight on the chief.

Former Microsoft executive Joachim Kempin believes Mr Ballmer, who has been in the top job since 2000, should either leave the group altogether or at least move to a different role.

Start Quote

Joachim Kempin

Mr Ballmer is a great COO (chief operating officer) but he doesn't have that vision. A CEO needs to look at the total market”

End Quote Joachim Kempin Former Microsoft executive

He told the BBC that Mr Ballmer's assertion that Microsoft is now a device and service company is "baloney", and that Microsoft is and always has been a software company.

'Totally wrong'

Mr Kempin worked for Microsoft from 1983 to 2002, and by the end of that time was in charge of selling Windows and Office to PC manufacturers.

"When I look at the situation today it is obvious Microsoft is abandoning these people [PC makers]," he says. "Microsoft are going into surface tablets. These tablets are OK products, but nothing really distinguishes them either."

By making this move, the company has alienated some of its manufacturing partners, he says, pointing to the likes of Hewlett-Packard and Samsung now producing Android tablets, not Windows tablets.

He says the company has also missed a trick with its Office software suite, by not putting it on Android devices and a smaller version on iPhones and Android phones. Instead Mr Kempin says they are protecting the Windows franchise, which is "totally wrong".

And the buck stops with the chief executive, he says. "Mr Ballmer is a great COO (chief operating officer) but he doesn't have that vision. A CEO needs to look at the total market."

He added that Mr Ballmer's style of management was very "prescriptive" and that the company had lost much of its entrepreneurial spirit.

Strong balance sheet

Microsoft pointed to its strong financial performance since Mr Ballmer became chief executive.

Revenues have nearly tripled from $25.3bn (£16.6bn) in 2001 to $74.3bn in 2012, and operating income has risen from $11.7bn to $25.3bn.

Steve Ballmer

Steve Ballmer, CEO, Microsoft
  • Born in March 1956
  • Joined Microsoft in 1980 and was the company's first business manager
  • Succeeded Bill Gates as CEO in 2000
  • Known for his exuberant stage appearances
  • Ranked 51st on Forbes' 2013 list of billionaires, with an estimated wealth of $15.2bn

It also said that over the past decade, Mr Ballmer had returned more than $180bn to shareholders via dividends and stock buybacks, more than than any US company besides Exxon, and the $63bn cash it has on its balance sheet is second only to Apple in the US.

However, Microsoft's share price has been pretty stagnant over the past decade, generally trading between $20 and $30. By comparison, Apple's has soared from around $9 to about $700 in September 2012, though it has since fallen back to about $400.

It should be pointed out that Mr Kempin only worked under Mr Ballmer's leadership for a year or two, more than a decade ago, and that he left the company under somewhat of a cloud after deals he signed with PC makers were used as ammunition by the US government's anti-competition investigators.

He has now written a book called Resolve and Fortitude: Microsoft's "Secret Power Broker", which details his 20 years at Microsoft.

He may well have an axe to grind as well as a book to sell, but he is not the first person to call for Mr Ballmer to be replaced.

In May 2011 David Einhorn, president of the hedge fund Greenlight Capital - an institutional investor in Microsoft - said Mr Ballmer should step down as chief executive after IBM and Apple had surpassed Microsoft in terms of market value.

It was time to "give someone else a chance", Mr Einhorn said, though Greenlight has since increased its holding in Microsoft to a $289bn stake suggesting it still has faith in the stock, whatever Mr Einhorn's feelings on Mr Ballmer.

And at Microsoft's last shareholder meeting in the autumn, Mr Ballmer received approval from over 96% of investors.

Windows 8 impact

While Microsoft's revenues rose in the most recent quarter, 75% of its overall revenues comes from elements that are not pinned to the operating system.

However, there is no getting away from the fact that Windows 8, which launched at the end of October, has not impressed the market. Revenues from Windows in the January-to-March quarter were flat when adjusted for upgrade offers.

Microsoft Windows 8 start screenMicrosoft says it remains committed to delivering on Windows 8

Last week, research firm IDC said global PC sales fell 14% in the first three months of the year, adding that not only had Windows 8 not provided a positive boost to the PC market, but appeared to have slowed the market.

"Windows 8 was not able to overcome the sexiness of new tablets and new phones," Patrick Moorhead, technology analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, told the BBC.

"Microsoft took some gambles which didn't end up working out for them - [like] the pervasiveness of touch. All their advertising was about touch, touch, touch.

"Windows 8 was underwhelming as it was received by the market."

Microsoft's chief financial officer (CFO) Peter Klein, whom it has just been announced will leave the company at the end of June, has previously defended the transition to the new operating system.

"It's early days and an ambitious endeavour like this takes time," he said in January. "Together with our partners, we remain focused on fully delivering the promise of Windows 8."

'Give him credit'

Colin Gillis, technology analyst at BGC Partners, believes Mr Ballmer has had a lot of successes that aren't always credited to him.

Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer

Start Quote

There are a lot of amazing things that Steve's leadership got done... But is it enough? No. He and I are not satisfied”

End Quote Bill Gates Microsoft chairman, speaking in a recent interview with CBS

"Kinect at the time was the fastest-selling consumer electronics device in history, XBox was also fast selling," he says. "And that was a very competitive marketplace.

"He's built up a multi-billion-dollar enterprise business, but the flipside is the computing landscape has shifted and Microsoft has not shifted well with it - this is the rise of smartphones and tablets.

"A lot of it is down to the leadership. It's fair to critique him in that area. But if you're going to penalise him in the areas where he's late to market you also need to give him credit for areas where he was successful."

Mr Moorhead agrees, saying that financially Microsoft is doing well through acquisitions and growth in their enterprise businesses.

"I think the bad opinions of Microsoft are harsher than the reality. [But] Microsoft and Ballmer are going to be measured in the eye of the public by how well did they do in phones and how does their trajectory looks in tablets, which right now is nowhere."


In a recent interview, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates was asked if he was happy with the performance of the firm under Mr Ballmer's rule.

Microsoft Corp.

Last Updated at 19 Apr 2013, 16:00 ET Microsoft Corp. twelve month chart
price change %
29.77 +

He replied: "There are a lot of amazing things that Steve's leadership got done at the company over the last year - Windows 8 is key to the future, the surface computer, Bing, people are seeing as a better search product, the XBox.

"But is it enough? No. He and I are not satisfied, in terms of breakthrough things, that we're doing everything possible."

So should Mr Ballmer remain in charge? While Mr Kempin firmly believes he should hand over the reins, Mr Moorhead says there is no imminent need.

However, he adds: "I think if you see multiple quarters of PC declines I don't see that Ballmer would be able to stay in power."

But it would be hard to pick a replacement, he says, given that so many top people have left the company.

CFO Peter Klein's departure follows that of Steven Sinofsky, the head of Microsoft's Windows division.

Mr Sinofksy could have been in line had Windows 8 been a success, but he left the group just a week after the Windows 8 launch, amid talk of an internal "war" between himself and Mr Ballmer.

If and when the time comes though, Mr Moorhead believes the company could bring in somebody from the outside.

"I think that it would be a good thing for Microsoft in that it would bring some new ideas, a new type of fire."

  750 Hits
750 Hits

Your views: Are online ads too intrusive?

Online advertsCovert surveillance: Advertisers look at what you do online to decide what adverts you are most like to answer

At the beginning of the financial crisis the orthodoxy was that businesses like advertising would be the worst hit.

Technology of Business

As your business crumbled it would be the first overhead to go.

But today global advertising seems to be one sector bucking the gloomy trend, with the biggest growth sector being online.

Spending on web advertising topped $100bn for the first time last year. Digital now commands nearly one in five advertising dollars, and forecasts suggest we can expect double digit increases for at least the next couple of years.

Unlike with traditional TV campaigns, advertisers online can increasingly target commercials at precisely the right sort of people, using sophisticated data mining and tracking technology.

But what do the people at whom this is aimed - you, the consumer - actually think about being tracked online so that companies can predict your spending habits?

A group of students at the British Museum tell us what they think.


Most of the content that you access online is free because of advertising. But I think the price you're paying for the content is too high because it's way too invasive.


They don't let you watch whatever you want without previously watching the ads.

For example with YouTube, when you are about to watch a video… they make you watch the ad first and then you can watch the video that you selected. It's not nice, it's invasive.

From the advertiser's point of view it's really cool because you are speaking to the precise target, right?

But essentially I don't like advertising at all - I don't like anything between what I want to do and me, you know, and advertising online does that.

They prevent you from enjoying what you want to enjoy in life.

Start Quote

How are they supposed to know all that about you? My girlfriend doesn't know that much about me”

End Quote Manuel

[The internet] used to be freer… now it's all dependent on copywritten material and permissions and advertising providing you the content.

It's supposed to be the other way around. It was supposed to be… people generating content for other people to watch, and now it's all about advertising once again as it is on TV and all media.

I believe that the nature of the advertising should not be that invasive because they know what I've looked on Google for example. And according to that they make the ads appear.

So they know what I'm doing, they know what I like… how are they supposed to know all that about you? My girlfriend doesn't know that much about me.


It's very annoying because the advertisement itself of course it's annoying but I really don't like the contents of the advertisement because it's something like meet some boyfriend in internet, it's like I need boyfriend.

So, it's like dating website. And the other one is something, how to reduce your fat in your body.

I think [they're targeting me] because maybe the website checks, what kind of other website I saw or [checks] my age or something.

It's not what I want so just was very annoying because it makes me feel like I'm a very small and typical person. And the website acts like they know what I want and I really reject that.


I find it quite creepy the way that [adverts on Facebook] seems to know your behaviour and who you are and directs ads at you based on that.


For instance if I've been Googling Weightwatchers or something like this, there will be weight loss and slimming pills.

My friend was getting married, and she had wedding dresses and wedding adverts. It feels quite intrusive.

I'd rather go and look for things I want to buy… rather than them guessing [about] me and my personality… that feels big brotherish.

I'm not a big fan of adverts.


It's a bit weird actually, but maybe because I studied Arabic… I'm encouraged to meet Arab men.

I feel really creeped out when not for any reason just because it's strange that it would know that.


Start Quote

[Advertising] doesn't seem particularly conspicuous online”

End Quote David

I don't really notice [online advertising]… I don't visit many sites where it plays a big part, for instance the BBC website doesn't have any advertising so it's not a huge concern for me.

I have certain feelings about the advertising industry in general but I wouldn't limit those to online advertising.

I don't really have a basis of comparison, it's always been present on the internet and you're confronted by advertising every way you go and all walks of life. So no, it doesn't seem particularly conspicuous online.


I think [online advertising] is excessive and not very necessary for who they are targeting, and it's not reaching the right audience.


It is just never anything that's necessary to me, not necessary to young women actually.

It's more targeted when I seem to access my cookies and such, that's when I get - depending on where I'm browsing from, if it's my laptop or my home computer or my laptop - more the cosmetic stuff and clothing and things like that.

It catches my eye and I might come back to it later, so yes, it does work.

[I feel I'm being targeted on Facebook] more than the others… so I choose not to use Facebook as much as I would Twitter or any other networks that I do use.

The students were speaking to the BBC World Service's Business Daily programme. You can listen to their online advertising special here.

  789 Hits
789 Hits

Indie music shop in show of strength

Inside the Rough Trade East shop in LondonRough Trade East is benefiting from the popularity of vinyl and the success of Record Store Day

On a lazy midweek morning in the East End of London, one of the UK's hippest and most influential record shops is experiencing the calm before the retail storm.

Right now, barely more than half a dozen potential customers are browsing the racks at Rough Trade East, while the sound of David Bowie's comeback album fills the air.

Except for a few discreetly positioned signs, there is little indication of the turmoil expected this Saturday, when the store is likely to see its biggest crowds of the year.

In common with more than 200 other independent record shops throughout the country, Rough Trade's two London outlets are taking part in Record Store Day (RSD), a celebration of popular music culture with particular appeal for those who collect rare vinyl releases.

Record Store Day logo with Pink Floyd single coverAn early hit single by Pink Floyd is being reissued for Record Store Day

And this year, the event comes as a salutary reminder that despite the recent collapse of retailer HMV, now set to continue in diminished form under new ownership, the UK's music shops are still a force to be reckoned with.

Rough Trade is certainly on a roll at present. Last week, at trade paper Music Week's 2013 awards, it was voted Retail Brand of the Year, ahead of rivals including Amazon, iTunes and Spotify.

Buoyed by this success, Rough Trade East's staff are braced for a busy session at the tills on Saturday.

"It's lots of fun, in its own chaotic and stressful way," says Cordelia behind the counter. "We have people queuing up outside from midnight, just for the unique releases that come out on that day.

"It gets really full, but it's all very civilised. People don't fight over the records - it's more, 'You have that one and I'll have this one.' It's a very special way to experience a record shop."

Brand power
Stephen GodfroyStephen Godfroy has seen off the sceptics

"We've enjoyed double-digit growth since opening Rough Trade East back in 2007," says the firm's co-owner, Stephen Godfroy. "The first quarter of 2013 shows this trend continuing, with a 25% year-on-year sales growth performance."

The 5,000-sq-ft (500-sq-m) shop on Dray Walk, just off Brick Lane, is housed in the former loading bay of the old Truman brewery. When it opened as the UK's biggest music-only specialist shop, just before the start of the credit crunch, many observers were sceptical about its prospects.

But Mr Godfroy was convinced that High Street chains such as HMV were putting off customers because they had "commoditised" music - and that the solution was to bring back "the joy of browsing".

Nearly six years later, time seems to have proved him right. As he puts it, "the big red herring of HMV has been seen, particularly by the media, for all its failing glory".

This year's RSD offers him a chance to showcase that approach. The annual event began in the US in 2007, but soon spread to other countries. This year will be its sixth in the UK.

The big draw for collectors is that every year, a strictly limited series of seven-inch singles, LPs and the odd CD by a wide range of artists is made available, for as long as stocks last and only through participating shops. Once they're gone, they're gone.

Exterior of Rough Trade EastRough Trade East is the UK's biggest music-only store

Sought-after items for 2013 range from releases by Jimi Hendrix and Frank Zappa, via Paul Weller and Nick Cave, to relative newcomers such as James Blake and Jake Bugg. In all, 450 limited-edition new records will hit the shops on 20 April.

Although Record Store Day gives an undeniable lift to Rough Trade's sales, Mr Godfroy has misgivings about it, seeing the phenomenon as "a double-edged sword".

"It's a wonderful day of infectious celebration, but it's effectively a media event that focuses a lot of releases and footfall on a single day, which throws up unwanted logistical challenges and somewhat distorts the reality of bricks-and-mortar retail," he says.

"For example, RSD has certainly provided a boost in confidence for the typical independent music retailer, but for Rough Trade, the cost is often a misguided media message that we need 'supporting' like a charity, which couldn't be further from the truth, as our sales performance testifies."

Value of vinyl

The rise of Rough Trade East has gone hand-in-hand with a revival in the fortunes of the vinyl format.

Once considered doomed to extinction, the black plastic disc has seen a resurgence in popularity. LP sales in particular have steadily increased in value.

However, not everyone who buys a vinyl album actually plays it or even owns a turntable. Since most records come with a download code allowing the purchaser to obtain the music in mp3 form, the disc itself can be treated simply as an attractive artefact, with no need for the stylus ever to hit the grooves.

Vinyl sales in the UK


  • 2008 - £1.1m
  • 2009 - £2.8m
  • 2010 - £3.1m
  • 2011 - £3.4m
  • 2012 - £5.7m


  • 2008 - £2.2m
  • 2009 - £2.5m
  • 2010 - £1.3m
  • 2011 - £0.9m
  • 2012 - £0.9m

Source: Entertainment Retailers Association

Mr Godfroy sees the vinyl revival as a product of a "post-digital era", characterised by "savvy, multi-format consumption".

"With the value of digital delivery resting largely on immediacy and rental disposability, it's paradoxically put into sharp relief the values of vinyl ownership in particular, with its superior audio, visual and ceremonial qualities," he says.

Rough Trade sells music in all formats, both in its two shops and on its website, which offers an mp3 subscription service, Tracks of the Week.

So far, the bulk of the retailer's sales are still on vinyl and CD. But there are plans for a new offer later this year that will allow customers who buy physical releases in-store to receive automatic digital copies as well.

"Our tills marry the offline purchases with the customer's online account, creating a seamless multi-format, multi-channel offer," says Mr Godfroy.

Rough Trade's other big new move for 2013 is to open a branch in New York, a city that has lacked a sizeable record shop since Virgin's US chain folded in 2009.

But whereas Virgin favoured high-rent sites in Times Square and Union Square, Rough Trade is following its UK policy in picking a more low-key location.

Its Rough Trade NYC shop will be in Brooklyn, not Manhattan, and will be twice the size of its east London store.

So this time next year, Rough Trade will be able to offer its own take on Record Store Day in the country where the event began.

  853 Hits
853 Hits

Rich List: Changing face of wealth

Margaret Thatcher in 1989Is the Sunday Times Rich List a tribute to Thatcherism?

Related Stories

The 25th edition of the Sunday Times Rich List is due to be published this weekend.

When the first one was published on 2 April 1989, the paper called it an indictment of Thatcherism.

Margaret Thatcher had been in power for a month short of 10 years.

"The very limited success of the Thatcher revolution in transforming British society is graphically and grimly illustrated" by the list, the editorial said.

Old money

"Liberated from red tape, inflation, crippling taxes and the union barons, British businessmen by now should have seized the commanding heights of the economy and society," it said.

In that original list of the country's 200 richest people, only 86 of them had made their fortunes themselves.

The list was spattered with landowners, containing 11 dukes, six marquises, 14 earls and nine viscounts.

And at number one was the Queen (classified in the alphabetical list as "Queen, the") with her £5.2bn, sitting at the top of a tree grown from inherited wealth.

Sunday Times Rich List 1989


The Queen

The Queen




Duke of Westminster

Duke of Westminster




Lord Sainsbury

Lord Sainsbury & family




Hans Rausing

Gad & Hans Rausing




Sir John Moores

Sir John Moores




Garfield Weston

Garfield Weston


Food production and retail


John Paul Getty

John Paul Getty II




Lord Vestey

Lord Vestey & Edmund Vestey




Octav Botnar

Octav Botnar




Sir James Goldsmith

Sir James Goldsmith



Much has changed in the 25 years of the list, not least the relegation of the Queen, who dropped out of the top 200 as a result of the decision by the report's author, Philip Beresford, to stop counting the value of things such as the royal art collection, which could not really be described as her personal wealth.

Richer and richer

  • In 1989 you would have needed wealth of £30m (about £65m today) to make it into the top 200
  • Last year, to get into the top 200 you would have needed £450m
  • In 1989 the wealth of the top 200 added up to £38bn
  • Last year it added up to £289bn

Her Majesty is not the only holder of inherited wealth who has slid down the league table.

"Wealth that is self-made is becoming more and more evident," Mr Beresford told BBC News.

"When I first started 25 years ago about two-thirds of the rich list were people who had inherited their wealth.

"Today, approaching 80% are self-made and that's really a legacy of the Thatcher years."

Peter York, the market researcher and cultural commentator, says the lack of self-made millionaires on the 1989 list "just shows you that development works in arrears to what you think is happening".

"The Thatcher revolution bore fruit in the sense that the home-grown money started to show itself in the mid-1990s."

Foreign money

But if you look at the self-made people likely to feature at the top of this year's list, a pattern emerges.

Chelsea owner Roman AbramovichChelsea owner Roman Abramovich is likely to feature highly in this weekend's list

Lakshmi Mittal, who has been top of the list since 2005, could hardly be described as having made his money in Britain.

He owns a big stake in the global steel and mining company ArcelorMittal, only a tiny proportion of the activities of which take place in the UK.

Alisher Usmanov's wealth comes from iron ore in Russia and a stake in Facebook.

Roman Abramovich made his money in Russian oil.

The Hinduja brothers do indeed have extensive business interests in the UK, although they are dwarfed by their Indian businesses.

Leonard Blavatnik made his money buying stakes in Russia's newly privatised oil industry.

But with a few exceptions expected in the top 20, such as Sir Richard Branson and Sir Philip Green, not many have made their fortunes in Britain.

"The very richest people on the list are what most people would call foreign," Mr York says.

He adds the list has been distorted because "London has become the city of choice for the global super-rich".

"That's partly to do with fashion and partly to do with tax," he says.

And the tax regime is an inheritance from Thatcherism, he agrees.

"'Rich people have rights too,' you remember she said."

  719 Hits
719 Hits

Deepwater Horizon: Surviving the oil spill - interactive video

Production: Franz Strasser, Marc Georges, Mark Bryson, Caroline Pitt, Steven Atherton, Christine Jeavans, Keith Moore, Niko Vijayaratnam

Interactive player: wireWAX.

This is a trial format that works best on desktop. On some tablets you may get redirected to an external site to view the video. This feature won't work for users of the mobile site.

We would like to know your views on this new format. Did you find it easy to use? Was the interactive content engaging? Let us know what you think.

  767 Hits
767 Hits