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Britain super rich ravaged by recession

LONDON, Apr 26 – Britain\’s richest people lost 155 billion pounds (172 billion euros, 228 billion dollars) in the past year because of a deep recession and the global financial crisis, a survey showed on Sunday.

The Sunday Times newspaper\’s 2009 Rich List, featuring the thousand wealthiest people based in Britain, also found the number of billionaires sank from 75 to 43 people in the last 12 months as the credit crunch took its toll.

The country\’s 1,000 richest people have a collective fortune of 258 billion pounds, according to the weekly newspaper. That compared with a record 413 billion pounds in last year\’s survey.

"I am beyond being surprised, except by the scale of the devastation," said Philip Beresford, who has compiled the annual list since 1989.

"It is extraordinary how people have seen their fortunes being whittled away. It is devastation all round."

Indian-born steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal topped the list for the fifth year running — but he and his family\’s wealth has plunged 61 percent to 10.8 billion pounds in 2008, sharply down from 27.7 billion pounds in 2007.

That makes Mittal, 58, the biggest loser in the list, as his empire took a major blow from collapse of the world steel market.

Roman Abramovich, the Russian oligarch who owns Chelsea Football Club, is the second richest with 7.0 billion pounds, down 40 percent from 11.7 billion last time.

The global financial crisis pushed Britain into an official recession in the second half of 2008, with the economy experiencing two successive quarters of economic contraction.

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And official figures out Friday showed the recession deepened in the first three months of 2009, with the battered economy shrinking at the fastest rate in almost 30 years.

Some of the best-known British-born business figures also took a knock from the sharp economic downturn.

Virgin boss Richard Branson is now worth 1.2 billion pounds after losing 1.5 billion in the last year.

The list also said Formula One racing chief Bernie Ecclestone lost 934 million pounds this year, leaving him worth 1.5 billion pounds.

On the upside, Ken Morrison, former boss of supermarket group Morrisons, saw his fortune jump 11 percent to 1.6 billion pounds, according to the 2009 survey.

And Mohammed Al Fayed, owner of London\’s up-scale Harrods department store, saw his riches climb 17 percent to 650 million pounds.

It now takes 55 million pounds to make it on to the Rich List, which compared with 80 million pounds last year.

Britain\’s top 10 billionaires in The Sunday Times Rich List 2009 (last year\’s rank and wealth in brackets, figures in pounds):

1. Lakshmi Mittal and family — steel — 10.8bn (1st, 27.7bn)

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2. Roman Abramovich — oil and industry — 7.0bn (2nd, 11.7bn)

3. The Duke of Westminster — property — 6.5bn (3rd, 7.0bn)

4. Ernesto and Kirsty Bertarelli — pharmaceuticals — 5.0bn (6th, 5.65bn)

5. Hans Rausing and family — packaging — 4.0bn (7th, 5.4bn)

6. Sir Philip and Lady Green — retailing — 3.83bn (9th, 4.33bn)

7. Charlene and Michel de Carvalho — inheritance, brewing and banking — 2.960bn (13th, 3.63bn)

8. Sammy and Eyal Ofer — shipping and property — 2.677bn (15th, 3.336bn)

9= John Fredriksen — shipping — 2.5bn (8th, 4.65bn)

9= Joe Lewis — foreign exchange and investment — 2.5bn (19th, 2.8bn)

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9= Kirsten and Jorn Rausing — inheritance and investment — 2.5bn (14th, 3.5bn)

9= David and Simon Reuben — property — 2.5bn (10th, 4.3bn)

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