With Big Ben’s bell an everpresent reminder of the family firm’s contributions, London’s Whitechapel Bell Foundry, established in 1420, was the oldest family business in Great Britain when it closed in 2017.
Even without its iconic bellmaker, London remains a wellspring for family enterprises, accounting for 34 per cent of the UK’s business population and around 1 million of Great Britain’s 5.5 million private sector businesses. Family-owned firms make up most private sector businesses in the UK, contributing nearly $800 billion to Great Britain’s GDP and employing over 14 million. And London’s GDP is over $600 billion alone.
Here are the Top 10 Largest Family-Owned Businesses in London by revenue:
10. Weybourne Group
Annual Revenue: $1 Billion
Frustrated with his malfunctioning vacuum cleaner in the early 1970s, Sir James Dyson revolutionised cleaning with the invention of cyclonic force technology. Dyson’s company has expanded its innovative reach to other products, including hair and air appliances, lighting, farming, and financial solutions, and is now organised through a family office, the Weybourne Group.
In 2019, the group began moving its operations to Singapore, but two years later, Sir James Dyson moved back to the UK and continues to manage the real estate and farming portions of the Weybourne Group’s operations from London.
Dyson’s son, Jake Dyson, spearheaded Dyson’s foray into lighting products and has been named successor to the family business. The Dyson family is one of the richest in the UK.
9. Daily Mail & General Trust
Annual Revenue: $1.2 Billion
Launched in 1896 by Brothers Alfred and Harold Harmsworth (The Viscount Northcliffe and Viscount Rothermere) as the Daily Mail, the Harmsworth family established the Daily Mail & General Trust (DMGT) in 1922 to manage their newspaper interests. Over the next century, DMGT diversified to include resources for commercial and residential property transactions and events planning while maintaining its focus on media with the acquisition of Metro and The Mail on Sunday. DMGT’s eight publications reach over 11 million readers daily in the UK.
Jonathan Harmsworth (The Fourth Viscount Rothermere), great-grandson of the founder, serves as the Daily Mail & General Trust’s Chairman and CEO. In 2020, DMGT’s Daily Mail supplanted Rupert Murdoch’s Sun as the UK’s top-selling newspaper.
8. Liberty Steel Group Holdings UK Ltd
Annual Revenue: $6 Billion
Founded by Sanjeev Gupta in 1992 as a trading company focused on Africa and Asia, Liberty grew into a commodities business specialising in ferrous and non-ferrous metals. The company entered the steel sector in 2013 by purchasing the UK’s MIR Steel. Liberty Steel Group would continue to expand through acquisitions in Europe and North America, becoming the 8th largest steel manufacturer outside of China with a global footprint of over 200 locations.
Sanjeev Gupta serves as Liberty Steel Group’s Executive Chairman & CEO and has announced his ambition to make the group carbon neutral by 2030.
7. Bestway Group
Annual Revenue: $6 Billion
Not satisfied with the wholesalers he counted on to supply his chain of London convenience stores, Sir Anwar Pervez and his partners founded Bestway Wholesale in 1976. The company grew throughout the 70s and 80s, opening its first warehouse outside London in 1987. Sir Anwar’s nephew, Lord Zameer Choudrey, became the first member of the family to join Bestway Group’s Board in 1990 and took on the company’s diversification initiative from this new position.
Today, Bestway Wholesale is the UK’s largest independent wholesaler, and the group’s Well Pharmacy is the UK’s largest independent retail pharmacy chain. Bestway Cement Limited is Pakistan’s second-largest cement manufacturer, and Bestway’s United Bank Limited is Pakistan’s third-largest. Sir Anwar Pervez remains Chairman of Bestway Group, whose Board consists of six members of the Pervez extended family.
6. Pentland Group
Annual Revenue: $8 Billion
Owners of brands that include Speedo, Berghaus, Canterbury of New Zealand, Endura, SeaVees, Lacoste, KangaROOS and Kickers in the UK, Pentland Brands products are sold in over 190 countries.
The company began in 1932 when husband and wife Berko and Minnie Rubin emigrated to Liverpool from Eastern Europe and set up a small fashion footwear business. The family’s next two generations expanded to include the manufacture of women’s footwear in the 1940s to 1960s and began outsourcing footwear manufacturing to Asia in the early 1970s. With the proceeds from the company’s 1981 investment in Reebok, Pentland Brands began building its portfolio of global brands and diversifying its business, which includes a majority stake in sports-fashion retailer JD Sports. Second-generation family leader Stephen Rubin chairs Pentland Group’s Board, and Andy Rubin serves as chairman of the company’s Pentland Brands division, representing the family’s third generation.
5. Prax Group
Annual Revenue: $10 Billion
One of the UK’s largest suppliers of petroleum products, the Prax Group’s business segments include Storage Assets, Oil Refining, and Logistics. The Group’s Harvest Energy is a leading independent refiner, blender and supplier of fuel.
Husband and wife team Arani and Winston Soosaipillai (Sanjeev Kumar Soosaipillai) grew an oil empire out of their Surrey apartment, eventually becoming one of the wealthiest couples in the UK. After Prax’s founding in 1999, the company initially specialised in blending fuel before acquiring an oil storage site in 2005. Today, Prax employs 1250 in 11 offices across the globe. The Group also operates 183 service stations and recently purchased its first two tanker ships in 2022.
4. Vedanta Resources Limited
Annual Revenue: $12 Billion
Vedanta Resources Limited is a Global Natural Resources Company interested in zinc-lead-silver, iron ore, steel, copper, oil and gas, aluminium, and power. The company’s roots extend back to India and Starlit Industries, founded by Dwarka Prasad Agarwal. Agarwal’s son, Anil Agarwal, established Vedanta Resources Limited in 1979 after working in the family’s mining business. Vedanta Resources would eventually become Starlit’s parent company, and the Vedanta Group became a vehicle to bring together the Agarwal family’s diversified business interests.
Anil Agarwal manages the Group’s activities as the Non-Executive Chairman of Vedanta Limited and Executive Chairman of Vedanta Resources. His brother, Navin Agarwal, serves as Vedanta Resources’ Executive Vice-Chairman.
3. John Swire & Sons Ltd.
Annual Revenue: $16 Billion
Founded by John Swire as an import-export business in 1816, today, Swire is a diversified global group with many of its businesses in the Asia-Pacific region. A Coca-Cola franchisee since the mid-1960s, Swire Coca-Cola has the exclusive right to manufacture, market and distribute products of the Coca-Cola Company in several parts of China, Taiwan, Cambodia, Vietnam and the western USA. In addition, the company’s shipping subsidiary is a leading provider of cargo transport solutions for trade in more than 90 countries. Swire Properties has substantial interests in Hong Kong (HKSAR), the Chinese Mainland, the USA, and Papua New Guinea that include property development, management, and hotels. The company’s Swire Pacific is also the largest shareholder of Cathay Pacific Airways.
Barnaby Swire serves as Chairman of John Swire & Sons, which directs group strategy from its London headquarters for its global subsidiaries that employ more than 100,000 worldwide.
2. Wittington Investments Ltd.
Annual Revenue: $19 Billion
Holding company of the Weston family, Wittington Investments owns a majority share of Associated British Foods plc, one of the world’s largest food companies, and manages a diversified portfolio that includes luxury retail, real estate and hotels.
Canadian entrepreneur Garfield Weston established Wittington in 1941 but gifted the majority of his shares to the Garfield Weston Foundation trust in 1958, which is Wittington’s majority shareholder today. Sir Guy Weston has been Chair of Wittington Investments Limited and the Garfield Weston Foundation since 2000. Wittington’s Associated British Foods controls well-known brands such as Primark, Twinings, Ovaltine, and British Sugar.
1. INEOS Group
Annual Revenue: $65 Billion
The global petrochemicals manufacturer was established in 1998 after Sir James Ratcliffe and his partners used venture capital to secure facilities British Petroleum intended to shutter in Antwerp. Over the following ten years, the company expanded its operations through acquisitions made with private equity products, a financing model now copied by several UK oil and gas companies. INEOS continues to diversify its portfolio, launching INEOS Automotive in 2017, INEOS Hygienics in 2020, and investing in professional sports across Europe.
The Ratcliffe family remain the majority shareholder of the company, which operates 194 sites across 29 countries and employs more than 26,000.