Author: Nicholas Hellen
Date: January 21, 2000

McCartney set to become pop's first billionaire

THE FORMER Beatle Sir Paul McCartney is set to become the world's first pop star billionaire after seeing his personal wealth rise by 175m.

The voice that helped define the 1960s has sung its way to a fortune of 725m, already making him the world's first dollar billionaire pop performer with $1.06 billion. He is expected to become a sterling billionaire next year after huge sales from a compilation album of Beatles hits.

His fortune was also swelled this year by an inheritance of 150m from the estate of his wife Linda.

The pop star is one of an elite club of Britain's super-rich who have ridden out last year's crash of internet stocks and turmoil in the financial markets. Booming property assets helped raise the collective worth of the country's richest 1,000 people by 5 billion to 150 billion, as the number of British billionaires increased by four to 30.

McCartney has now accumulated rewards far beyond those of Madonna who, as the Material Girl, appeared tom personify the greed of the 1980s.

According to an interim report of the 13th annual Sunday Times Rich List, Madonna, who is included because of her marriage to the British film director Guy Ritchie and her decision to live here, has a fortune of nearly 200m.

The gap between rich and poor is widening in Tony Blair's Britain despite the rise - and equally rapid fall - of the dotcom millionaires, says Philip Beresford, author of the 2001 Rich List which will be published this spring.

Kevin Leech, a Jersey-based investor, lost a paper fortune of 1 billion in a year with the collapse of his technology investments and he vanishes from the list. A further 100 former dotcom millionaires have also seen their fortunes evaporate. They include the online auctioneer Tim Jackson, who last year was worth 272m.

James Dyson, who invented the bagless vacuum cleaner, has seen his wealth rise from 530m to more than 700m. Old money also flourished as the Earl of Cadogan became Britain's second billionaire aristocrat, after the Duke of Westminster. His property company assets rose by more than 20% to 983m, and other wealth pushed him above 1 billion.

Five years ago J K Rowling, the author of the bestselling Harry Potter books, was living on 70 a week. She has now earned at least 35m from sales of 66m books, and merchandising may make her vastly richer.

The founder of easyJet, Stelios Haji-Ioannou, is turning himself into a younger version of Sir Richard Branson. With the flotation of 25% of his airline, and newer ventures such as easyBank and easyRentacar, it was easy money as his wealth soared by 200m to 700m.

Michael Heseltine, the former deputy prime minister, has prospered in opposition, doubling his wealth to 300m in the past two years in publishing. However, the rise of the former Asda chief executive Archie Norman to the Tory front bench has coincided with a fall in his business fortunes. He drops out of the top 1,000.

Beresford says the rich have become more open about their wealth and he detects little envy of entrepreneurs. Last night one in four British adults watched ITV's Who Wants to be a Millionaire as an unemployed Irishman tried to become the second person to win the top prize. One of the creators of the show, Paul Smith, has already become rich: he enters the Rich List with more than 100m.

by Nicholas Hellen