Mike Ashley is the richest man in the Northeast, according to the new edition of The Sunday Times Rich List, to be published this Sunday (May 7).
The 160-page special edition of The Sunday Times Magazine reveals the wealth of the 1,000 richest people in Britain.
Ashley, 52, remains the region's richest man with a fortune now put at £2.16bn. However, he has experienced a tough 12 months with his Sports Direct warehouses attracting negative media attention owing to staff working conditions.
The value of the Nottinghamshire-based operation is now £1.73bn, down from £4.5bn a year ago, and Ashley’s stake is now valued at £980m, down £270m over the same period.
He also owns Newcastle United Football Club and will be glad to see the club back among the riches of the Premier League, winning promotion at the first time of asking following the club’s relegation to the Championship last season.
Ashley remains richer than both owners of rival Northeast football clubs Sunderland and Middlesbrough combined.
Sunderland owner Ellis Short and Middlesbrough owner Steve Gibson are valued at £1.2bn and £195m respectively, with both individuals having experienced no change in their wealth over the past 12 months.
Newcastle United’s rivals Sunderland AFC are close to completing a miserable season that has seen them relegated to the second tier of English football. Owner Ellis Short, 56, is actively cost-cutting to try and reduce the club’s £140m debt. Short, who made his fortune with Texas-based private equity firm Lone Star, remains the second wealthiest in the Northeast with a net worth of £1.2bn.
The Fenwick retail fortune continues to grow with Mark Fenwick and family now standing at £730m, up £30m on last year, making them the third richest in the Northeast.
Fenwick, 69 on Thursday, will soon step down as chairman of the department store chain which made a record £44.2m profit on £302m of sales in 2015-16. He is to be replaced by Richard Pennycook, a former Co-op boss and the first non-family member to run the company. With £595.8m of net assets, the business is worth £630m but does face an uphill struggle to compete with a changing retail landscape where out-of-town shopping centres and online retailers are becoming ever more popular. The Fenwicks also have a property portfolio worth over £100m.
Peter Stephenson and family become the fourth richest in the Northeast because of a £232m wealth increase in the past twelve months.
Stephenson, 70 on Thursday, founded Able UK in 1966 and has built it into a market leading marine decommissioning and land development business.
He is currently investing £450m in a marine energy park on the Humber estuary’s south bank, offering state-of-the-art facilities to make wind turbines. Able UK’s parent company made a £14.3m profit on £21.2m sales in 2015 and is worth its assets of £432m. The Stephenson family has full ownership.
Philanthropist and financier Jonathan Ruffer ranks sixth in the region this year with a fortune put at £406m, up £36m on last year.
Ruffer, who is currently converting Auckland Castle into a major tourist destination, has bankrolled the spectacular Kynren show, staged for the first time over 15 nights last summer with more than 1,000 local volunteers.
The community-led show played to more than 100,000 people in a field beneath the castle and returns to Bishop Auckland again in July as part of Ruffer’s project to help regenerate the area.
Rock star Sting, 65, remains one of the wealthiest in the Northeast after his North American tour with Peter Gabriel last year pulled in $28m of box office receipts. The ex-Police band member is currently midway through 70-plus gig tour promoting his new album, 57th & 9th. He and his wife Trudie Styler, 63, have a portfolio of property which includes houses in New York, Tuscany and Malibu, and he remains worth £185m.
The Sunday Times Rich List is compiled by Robert Watts.