New Internationalist

This is a disaster!

Okay, I'm getting worried now. Really worried. The credit crisis, credit crunch or whatever you want to call it, is biting. And hard.

I recently read in The Observer that the number of billionaires in the UK has halved. Figures compiled for the Sunday Times Rich List 2009 revealed that the number of billionaires has fallen from 75 to 43 in the past 12 months. There are some heart-wrenching examples given: 

Roman Abramovich, the Russian owner of Chelsea Football Club, keeps his position at second on the list despite suffering from the downturn. His fortune has fallen to £7bn from £11.7bn. The richest British-born billionaire is the Duke of Westminster. His fortune, mainly based on property, has shrunk from £7bn to £6.5bn.

Other wealthy casualties include Sir Richard Branson, who has lost £1.5bn and is now worth £1.2bn, and the Formula One tycoon Bernie Ecclestone, who lost £934m this year, reducing his worth to £1.46bn. Sir Tom Jones, Phil Collins and Engelbert Humperdinck all lost substantial sums, while the personal fortune of Sir Cliff Richard is down a fifth from £50m to £40m.

The plummeting value of property investments and share portfolios are the main reasons behind the major hits taken by celebrities: Sir Paul McCartney saw £60m wiped off his fortune due to falling property and share values.

Sir Elton John's generous charitable donations contributed to the fall of his fortune from £238m in 2008 to £175m.

Lakshmi Mittal, the London-based steel magnate, was the biggest loser among the billionaires after his fortune dropped by almost £17bn to £10.8bn. But he retains his place as Britain's richest man for the fifth year running.

Collectively, the 1,000 multimillionaires on the list are worth £258bn, down from last year's record total of £413bn.

This is an unmitigated disaster. These wealth creators are threatening to leave the country, taking their hard-earned cash with them. Therefore, as of now, I am starting a campaign to support our now considerably less-wealthy friends in their hour of need. I'm calling for a national whip-round to help them through these hard times. Come on people, put your hands in your pockets!

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About the author

Alan Hughes a New Internationalist contributor

Alan Hughes was a graphic artist at New Internationalist. He retired in 2014. He is a life-long socialist and trade unionist and is currently involved in the Keep Our NHS Public Campaign. He is passionate about The Beatles and has supported Aston Villa FC for over 50 years. He lives in Oxford with his daughter.

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