From a council estate to Britain’s richest man

Hero or villain? Jim Ratcliffe was once nicknamed “Dr No” due to his harsh negotiating style. © Getty

Should we celebrate wealth? The Sunday Times has published its annual list of the UK’s 1,000 richest people. At the top is Jim Ratcliffe, a billionaire from a council estate in Manchester...

Bottle caps, toothpaste, food packaging, mobile phones — you won’t know it, but you probably use a product made by Jim Ratcliffe’s company almost every day. It is a chemicals manufacturer called Ineos, which makes the raw materials for a dizzying number of everyday objects.

Now Ratcliffe has been named the wealthiest person in Britain. With an estimated fortune of £21 billion, he tops the annual Sunday Times Rich List which was published yesterday.

He is no ordinary billionaire. He was raised on a council estate and his father was a joiner who left school at 14. He is the first “self-made, British-born industrialist” to top the Rich List, according to Robert Watts, the journalist who puts the list together.

This year the list is celebrating its 30th birthday, and things have changed a lot since it was first published. In 1989, the richest 200 people in Britain were worth £38 billion in total. Now that is less than the value of the top two. The combined wealth of the entire 2018 list has grown by 10%, to a record £724 billion.

But the biggest change, Watts wrote, is the type of person on the list. It used to be dominated by aristocrats and people who had inherited money. Now, 94% of the people earned their money themselves.

Is wealth worth celebrating?

A bit rich

No, argue some. As the Bible itself says, “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil”. The desire to keep earning more can make us greedy and selfish — it’s shameful of Ratcliffe to have so much when there are children going hungry in his own country.

This is too simplistic, argue others. Ratcliffe’s “greed” is actually a desire to work hard and create jobs for thousands of people. He pays taxes and gives to charity. So what’s the problem? The Rich List is a reminder that we could all do the same one day.

You Decide

  1. If you had £21 billion, how much of it would you give away to good causes?


  1. Find out what you could afford if you had Jim Ratcliffe’s fortune (eg How many yachts could you buy? How many hospitals could you build? How many trips around the world could you take?) Then make a list of the top five things you would do with the money.

Some People Say...

“Money is a great servant but a bad master.”

Francis Bacon

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
To make it onto the 2018 Rich List, you need at least £115 million. It includes anyone who lives or works in Britain, no matter where they were born.
What do we not know?
How accurate the fortunes are. The Sunday Times estimates each person’s wealth based on the value of things like their homes, companies or art. It does not have access to how much is in someone’s bank account.

Word Watch

£21 billion
The newspaper “cautiously” valued Ineos as being worth £35 billion based on its current profits. As Ratcliffe owns 60% of his company, that puts his wealth at £21 billion.
Top two
In second place were Sri and Gopi Hinduja, two brothers who topped the list last year. They are worth £20.6 billion.
This was written in a letter by Paul the Apostle. (The verse is 1 Timothy, 6:10)
Going hungry
According to the United Nations last year, around one in five children live with an adult who does not have enough food.

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