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10 richest people in the UK drinks trade

The drinks trade may sometimes seem like a better place to spend money than to make it, but as The Sunday Times Rich List 2015 shows, brewing, distilling and winemaking, not to mention founding a successful merchant to sell these products, has served some people extremely well.

While we outline the 10 biggest fortunes derived entirely, or at least in part, from the drinks trade over the following pages, there remain a number of other multimillionaires who didn’t quite make the cut.

These include the new faces of Malcolm and Duncan MacKinnon, who sold their Drambuie brand to William Grant & Sons last year for an undisclosed sum – although commentators at the time suggested that they were seeking around £100m for their business, which is the same as the valuation of their current wealth by The Sunday Times.

Other major players sitting outside the £120m it takes to secure a place in the top 10 these days are Judy Halewood, who chairs Halewood International, a Liverpool-based drinks distributor and producer of brands such as Crabbie’s alcoholic ginger beer and Lambrini. The business has built her a £110m fortune.

Then there’s John Rudd of wine merchant Berry Bros & Rudd, which has helped him to build up a fortune of £110m, and Dutchman Eric Heerema, who owns English sparkling wine producer Nyetimber. Together with Heerema’s other interests and inheritance, this wine business has contributed to total assets worth £100m.

As if those success stories weren’t impressive enough, read on to find out the 10 biggest fortunes in the drinks industry today.

10. John Apthorp – £120 million

Having sold his frozen food business in 1989, Apthorp co-founded Wizzard Wines, now trading as Majestic Wine.

Now 80, Apthorp retains a stake in the UK retailer, which has struggled to compete with the supermarkets recently but made headlines earlier this month following its £70m purchase of online venture Naked Wines.

Last year Apthorp was made a Commander of the British Empire for his charitable services.

9. David McMullen – £132 million

A descendent of Peter McMullen, who founded the Hertford-based brewery McMullen & Sons in 1987, 70-year-old David McMullen is former chairman and one of many family members who have remained involved with the business.

One of the few UK breweries to have survived into the modern era, McMullen & Sons continues to expand its pub portfolio, and also owns the Baroosh café bar brand. Meanwhile the McMullen AK bitter has been produced since 1833.

 8. Tony & Barbara Laithwaite – £160 million

Back in 1969, Tony Laithwaite bought a Ford van and started bringing back wine from Bordeaux to sell in the UK. This turned into Bordeaux Direct, a company whose focus gradually expanded across France and even as far afield as Rioja, Bulgaria and Australia – hardly mainstream features of the UK market in the 70s.

Nearly half a century on he remains owner of this business, now called Laithwaites Wine, which retains the original direct sourcing ethos from the early days.

The company is now part of Direct Wines, a mail order group wholly owned by the Laithwaite family with franchise or distribution agreements in continental Europe, Hong Kong, Taiwan and India.

7. Aaron & Tania Hillman – £175 million

After wine and beer, it’s no surprise to see spirits get a look in. The Hillman siblings own Angus Dundee, whose Glencadam and Tomintoul distilleries sold £53m-worth of Scotch whisky last year.

In addition to these single malt brands, the company produces a wide range of blended whiskies and supplies whisky in bulk for local bottling. It also has its own bottling plant near Glasgow.

6. Silvio Denz – £210 million

He may have built his original fortune as the head of Lalique and Jaguar Fragrances, but recent year have seen Denz expand his business interests into the wine sector as well.

2014 saw the Swiss-born, London-based multi-millionaire add Sauternes’ Château Lafaurie Peyraguey to his other Bordeaux wine estates: Château Péby Faugères and Château Faugères in Saint-Emilion, Château de Chambrun in Lalande de Pomerol and Château Cap-de-Faugères in Côtes de Castillon.

In addition, Denz co-owns Château Rocheyron in St. Emilion with Peter Sisseck of Dominio de Pingus in Ribera del Duero. Sisseck also oversees Denz’ Spanish estate Clos d’Agon on the Costa Brava.

5. Sir Douglas Myers – £450 million

Leaping up several hundred million pounds, we come to 76-year-old Sir Douglas Myers, a New Zealander who in 1998 sold his 16% stake in drinks producer Lion Nathan to Kirin, the Japanese brewer.

Now based in London and semi-retired, Myers retains a number of business and philanthropic interests. He also set up a scholarship covering the cost of New Zealand citizens to attend Cambridge University.

4. The Earl of Iveagh & The Guinness Family – £850 million

The current Earl is a direct descendant of Arthur Guinness, who invented this world famous black stout back in 1759.

The brand may now be managed by Diageo, but the Guinness family retains a stake in this UK-based drink giant that is valued at £200m. On top of this, the family has extensive property holdings, including 2,400 acres in Canada.

3. The Grant-Gordon Family – £2.15 billion

Moving up into the billionaires’ superleague, we come to the family behind William Grant & Sons, whose spirits portfolio includes Grant’s, Glenfiddich and Balvenie Scotch whiskies, as well as Reyka vodka, Hendrick’s gin, Milagro Tequila, Sailor Jerry rum, Tullamore Dew Irish whiskey and, most recently, Drambuie whisky liqueur.

Last year saw the company post a record turnover of £1.12bn, with profits up by 10.6% to £138m. Major investment continues apace, not only with brand acquisitions but the likes of a new €35m distillery for Tullamore Dew.

2. Carrie and François Perrodo & Family – £5.8 billion

Château Lebégorce

Singaporean former model Carrie Perrodo and her eldest son François took over ownership of her husband Hubert Perrodo’s oil company after his death in a mountaineering accident in 2006. Meanwhile daughter Nathalie looks after the family’s wine business.

The star in this Bordeaux estate portfolio is Château Labégorce in Margaux, which her father gradually restored to its original size by buying up sold off vineyards.

1. Charlene de Carvalho-Heineken & Michel de Carvalho – 7.145 billion

Charlene de Carvalho-Heineken

Occupying 12th place in the Rich List overall is a family that owes much of its wealth to the world’s thirst for Heineken lager.

Charlene de Carvalho-Heineken owns a controlling interest in the world’s third largest brewer, a £6.4bn stake she inherited from her father Freddy Heineken, grandson of the Dutch brewery’s founder.

Her husband Michel de Carvalho appeared in Lawrence of Arabia as a child actor and skied for Great Britain in the Olympics. He now works in finance and is a member of the Heineken supervisory board.

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