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Wealth and riches in lockdown

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Wealth and riches in lockdown

This year’s Sunday Times Rich List revealed that wealthy figures in the pharmaceuticals industry will benefit from Covid-19 even as the UK economy plunges into the worst recession in memory. Brian Collett reports...


Pharmaceutical and biotech entrepreneurs will spot the opportunities, says Robert Watts, compiler of The Sunday Times Rich List which reports annually on the nation’s 1,000 wealthiest people.

At the same time Watts expects the less stable enterprises to struggle and become takeover targets for large pharma corporations.

One of the covid-19 winners, standing 568th in this year’s Rich List, is Peter FitzGerald, who started Randox Laboratories in a former henhouse in Northern Ireland. He sold testing kits to people at £120 apiece early in the outbreak and then offered “significant” numbers to the government.

The FitzGerald family wealth is put at £215m, up by £10m since last year. The industry is widely criticised for inflated drug prices, and profitability in this business has certainly fed individual fortunes.

Bhiku and Vijay Patel, whose company Atnahs takes over and markets existing medicines, have attracted controversy for the prices they charge the NHS. However, Watts observes: “High prices are something in the eye of the beholder. Some players in this world will argue that higher prices are justifiable or even necessary.”

The Patels, who came from Kenya in the 1960s with only £5, succeeded initially with Waymade and Amdipharm, marketing out-of-patent generic drugs. They sold up for £367m and their wealth is put now at £800m, unchanged since last year. They take 174th position.

Sir Dennis and Lady Gillings have similarly been under fire, though they have lost their billionaire tag. Sir Dennis, a London fishmonger’s son, made his fortune in the United States with the drug trial company Quintiles. The Gillingses sold Quintiles but retain a £746m stake in the healthcare information company IQVIA, which absorbed it.

This year Sir Dennis was knighted for services to dementia and life science research. The Gillingses had given £10m to Exeter University for a dementia research centre.

Their 2020 valuation is £933m, down from £1.199bn, and their list position is 151st.

Smaller companies continue to profit from undertaking research and development for the industry’s giants as they offer cost and time savings. 

Through their Chemidex company Navin and Varshar Engineer hold the rights to drugs for insomnia, bipolar disorder and other ills. The business has produced a £1.8bn fortune, up from £1.7bn last year, placing them at 82nd. 

Similar activities built a fortune for Amit and Meeta Patel, whose company Auden McKenzie held more than 70 product licences. Five years ago they sold for £306m, and today their wealth is calculated at £450m, unchanged since last year. They occupy 296th position.

The conventional pharma sector’s growth is matched by the expansion of the alternative medicines industry.

The wealth of brothers Robert and Patrick Wilson, whose homoeopathic treatments company Nelsons produces Rescue Remedy, continues to soar. The Rich List values them at £403m, up from £364m, and rates them £326th.

The vitamin supplements operation Vitabiotics, whose products include Pregnacare and Wellwoman, have again swollen the personal wealth of Kartar and Tej Lalvani. The Lalvanis are said to be worth £401m, up from £390m. They take 328th place.

Investigating magic mushrooms and similar drugs to combat depression has worked for Christian Angermayer. Atai Life Sciences, backed by Angermeyer’s investment group, has helped to raise his valuation from £308m last year to £396m, placing him 338th. Watts suggested last year that Angermeyer could become “the pharma king”.

Yet again the highest-placed entries, at 14th, are Ernesto and Kirsty Bertarelli, whose success originated from the Swiss manufacturer Serono. Their money now is in the London-based biopharmaceutical company Stallergenes Greer and Santhera Pharmaceuticals in Switzerland. Santhera’s faltering shares, however, have cut the Bertarellis’ valuation from £9.711bn to £9.2bn.

A high-flying 2020 omission is Dame Theresa Sackler and family, whose fortune, estimated at £3bn last year, was generated by Connecticut-based Purdue Pharma. Extensive American litigation over Purdue’s involvement in the opioid crisis ruled out a reliable wealth calculation.

Others listed: John Shaw and Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, Biocon, £1.808bn (£1.689bn last year), 81st; Henri Beaufour, Ipsen, £921m (£2.62bn), 156th; Tony Tabaznik and family, Arrow Generics, £500m (£500m), 269th; Bruce Craig, Marken, £286m (£289m), 456th; Oliver Cookson, Myprotein, £254m (£306m), 507th; Kirti Patel and family, Smartway PW. Holdings, £215m (£165m), 568th; Anwar and Yakub Patel, Cohens Chemist and Prinwest, £208m (£198m), 583rd; Andrew and Linda Leaver, Clinigen, £201m (£211m), 606th; Barrie Haigh, Innovex and Pharmacy2U, £198m (£199m), 633rd; Nik and Monisha Kotecha and family, Morningside Pharmaceuticals, £197m (£190m), 636th; John King, Warner Chilcott, £190m (£190m), 654th; Derek Coates, Healthspan, £185m (£190m), 670th; Stephen Cameron and family, Nucleus Global, £171m (£130m), 716th; David Pyott, Allergan, £150m (£150m), 805th; Jonathan Thornton and family, Thornton & Rose, £150m (£150m), 805th; Ian Reid, Pfizer, £145m (£125m), 840th; Michael Yarrow and family, Diomed Developments, £126m (£131m), 949th; Philip Burgan, Medimart, £120m (new entry), 982nd; Jo Bradwell, The Binding Site, £120m (£120m), 982nd; Nitin Sodha and family, Lexon, £120m (£134m), 982nd.              


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