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Boomtime for billionaires as mega-rich shrug off Brexit anxieties

Back in 1997, it took a personal wealth of just £15 million to make the grade.

There are now more UK-based billionaires than at any time in history despite fears over Brexit, according to the Sunday Times Rich List.

This year’s list found the wealthiest 1,000 individuals and families have a record total wealth of £658bn, up 14% on last year’s figure of £575bn.

Sri and Gopi Hinduja are the richest people in the UK with a fortune of £16.2bn, and the brothers are among a record 134 billionaires on the list, 14 more than were recorded in the 2016 edition.

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Gopi Hinduja and his brother top the list. (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Plain old millionaires increasingly struggle to count themselves among the mega-rich, with a fortune of £110 million now required to make it into the top 1,000. Back in 1997 it took a personal wealth of just £15 million to make the grade.

Having first topped the list in 2014, the Hinduja brothers, Srichand, 81, and Gopichand, 77, have a vast array of business investments under the Hinduja Group.

With investments spanning the oil and gas, automotive, IT, energy, media, banking, property and healthcare sectors, their latest project is the conversion of The Old War Office in London into a sumptuous five-star hotel and 88 luxury apartments for the world’s super-rich.

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The brothers are converting The Old War Office Building, situated on Whitehall. (Johnny Green/PA)

Robert Watts, compiler of the list, said: “While many of us worried about the outcome of the EU referendum, many of Britain’s richest people just kept calm and carried on making billions.

“We expected to see a chilling effect in the run-up to the EU referendum, but that simply did not materialise.

“A buoyant stock market usually drives the wealth of Rich Listers higher, and since last June equities have soared. We’re seeing more and more diversity in the composition of the Rich List.

“More women, more people from ethnic backgrounds, and more from surprising walks of life, with egg farmers and pet food makers lining up with hedge fund managers and private equity barons.”

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The Duke of Cambridge with Len Blavatnik. (Joe Giddens/PA)

Ukrainian-born American businessman Len Blavatnik, whose empire includes the Warner Music Group, is in second place on the list with a fortune of £15.982bn.

Siblings David and Simon Reuben, 78 and 76 respectively, topped the Rich List in 2016, and rank third this year despite a £900m rise in their wealth in the past 12 months.

The pair, who have a fortune of £14bn, now focus on prime London property including Connaught House, London Oxford airport and Arena Racing.

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Lakshmi Mittal. (PA)

Lakshmi Mittal and family are fourth and boast the biggest increase in wealth within the past 12 months, having added more than £6bn to their £13.229bn fortune, one of the highest annual rises to date.

Mittal, 66, is the largest steelmaker in the world and has felt the benefits of the industry’s resurgence. Shares in his main operation, ArcelorMittal, went up sharply following a 1.8bn dollar profit in 2016.

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