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Top 10 Family-owned Family Businesses 2011 - top firms continue to show growth

Date: 18/08/2011

Publication: n/a

While the economy struggles to recover the UK's top family-owned businesses have seen increased sales in the last year, according to the annual Top 10 UK Family-owned Business survey conducted by the Institute for Family Business (IFB).

Total sales for the top 10 UK family-owned businesses rose by 10.2% to £35.5bn with the top four companies - Associated British Foods (ABF), Stemcor, Swire Group, Laing O'Rourke - performing particularly well.

Once again multinational ABF, which owns familiar retail brands including Kingsmill, Primark and Twinings, topped the table although Stemcor, the world's largest independent steel trader, narrowed the gap in second (see table below).

IFB Director General, Grant Gordon, said: "The UK has seen difficult trading conditions in the last year, but there have been some remarkable success stories among the UK's top family businesses.

"With family firms contributing almost one third of our GDP the family business sector is becoming an increasingly important part of the UK's future economic growth."

While the top three remained the same Bestway Group has risen from 10th to seventh, while the only new entry to the list is Shop Direct, the online and home shopping retailer, replacing European Metal Recycling.

Top 10 UK family-owned businesses 2011 (2010 figures in brackets) (for full details see Notes to editors below)

1(1)   Associated British Foods
Weston family, sales £10.2bn (sales £9.3bn)

2(2)   Stemcor
Oppenheimer family, sales £5.1bn (sales £3.5bn)

3(3)   Swire Group
Swire family, sales £4.2bn (sales £3.2bn)

4(5)   Laing O'Rourke
O'Rourke family, sales 3.5bn (sales £2.5bn)

5(7)   Arnold Clark Automobiles
Clark family, sales £2.3bn (sales £2.2bn)

6(6)   SCH Group
Rigby family, sales £2.2bn (sales £2.3bn)

7(10)   Bestway Group
Pervez family, sales £2.1bn (sales £1.9bn)

8(9)   JCB
Bamford family, sales £2.0bn (sales £2.0bn)

9(8)   Daily Mail & General Trust
Vis. Rothermere & family, sales £2.0bn (sales £2.1bn)

10   Shop Direct Group
Barclay family, sales £1.9bn (new entry)


Notes to editors

1.  Associated British Foods (Weston family, sales £10.2bn)
Not a household name, but most of us will be familiar with the brands of this food to retail multinational - Kingsmill, Pataks, Primark, Ryvita, Twinings, and other marques, some of which were originally family firms in their own right. Founded by Toronto-born W Garfield Weston in 1935, the Weston family control ABF through family holding company Wittington Investments which also owns the luxury food store Fortnum & Mason and Heals. Whittington Investments has paid out £58m to charity in the last year. Third generation George Weston, 47, is currently chief executive of ABF.

2.  Stemcor (Oppenheimer family, sales £5.1bn)
The world's largest independent steel trader is involved in every aspect of the industry from minehead to factory floor trading globally around 20 million tonnes of steel and steel-making raw materials per annum. It has 80 offices in 40 countries around the world, employing more than 1,400 people. Formed in 1951 by Hans Oppenheimer, the majority of shares are still held by the family with his son Ralph Oppenheimer, 70, once a government economist, as executive chairman. Management & staff have an important minority ownership stake in the business.

3.   Swire Group (Swire family, sales £4.2bn)
Founded in Liverpool in 1816 this company was one of the success stories of Britain's global expansion in the nineteenth-century and is still going strong with its power base in Hong Kong and the Asia Pacific region. The Swire Group's privately owned parent company is John Swire & Sons Limited. Its best known operating company is the airline Cathay Pacific, but the group is also active in property, beverages, marine services, and trading & industrial investments and employs 125,000 worldwide. It is still a family concern and its current honorary and life presidents Sir Adrian, 78, and Sir John Swire 83, are great-great-grandsons of the founder John Swire and the next generation is represented on the board by Barnaby Swire.

4.   Laing O'Rourke (O'Rourke family, sales £3.5bn)
Ireland-born Ray O'Rourke came to Britain in 1967 and initially found work as a labourer, after setting up his own business as a subcontractor in 1978 in his family's garage his company has gone on to become the UK's biggest privately-owned construction firm. The company is involved in some of the highest profile building projects project-managing work on the 2012 Olympics. The business, based in Dartford, Kent, has grown spectacularly since the acquisition of John Laing in 2001 and has 20,000 employees, but it remains a family concern with Ray O'Rourke as chairman and chief executive and his brother Des the joint deputy chairman.

5.   Arnold Clark Automobiles (Clark family, sales £2.3bn)
Europe's largest privately-owned car dealer and one of Scotland's biggest companies, the firm has been going for 50 years and its eponymous founder is still in charge. Unable find a job after leaving the RAF in 1954 Glasgow-born Arnold Clark (now Sir Arnold) buying, repairing and selling cars and as the company grew it added rental, a finance arm and dealerships to its core used car sales operation. Sir Arnold is now into his 80s and has been joined in the business by his children and grand-children.

6.   SCH Group (Rigby family, sales £2.2bn)
The Birmingham-based company, Specialist Computer Holdings, is the largest privately-owned IT group in Europe and provides computer networks and services to blue chip companies and government organisations. The company started back in 1975 with just £2,000 in the pocket of its founder and group chief executive Sir Peter Rigby, 67, and has gained in size through regular acquisitions. The family is heavily involved in the day-to-day running of the firm with sons James and Steven both senior directors. An aviation enthusiast Sir Peter is a qualified pilot and owns Patriot Aviation, as well as the upmarket hotel chain Eden Hotel Collection.

7.   Bestway Group (Pervez family, sales £2.1bn)
Britain's largest Asian family business is headed up by Sir Anwar Pervez, 76, who arrived from Pakistan in 1956 as 21-year-old. He took on various jobs, including bus conductor, and finally launched his own business, the Kashmir convenience store in Earl's Court, London in 1963. With a team of associates that has stayed with him since the early days his big break came in the 1976 when he decided to go into the cash-and-carry market. His strategy was to undercut the wholesalers at the time by making 4% gross profit rather than 10% as was the norm. Sir Anwar never looked back and the Bestway Group is the UK's second largest wholesale cash and carry operator with 52 warehouses supplying 100,000 independent retailers. The business has also diversified into cement and banking in Pakistan and employs nearly 20,000 people worldwide. Sir Anwar's two sons also work in the business and his nephew Zameer Choudrey is chief executive.

8.   JCB (Bamford family, sales £2.0bn)
Named after its founder, the legendary businessman, the late Joe Bamford, the company's name is synonymous with all types of engineering vehicle from diggers to excavators and engines. Its 300 different machines in total are used in construction, agriculture and by the military across the world. It's now one of the world's top three manufacturers of construction equipment, employing 7,000 people. The firm was founded in 1945 with Joe Bamford constructing the first vehicle, a farm trailer, himself using welding equipment bought for 50 shillings. Sir Anthony Bamford, 66, now chairman of the company, was born on the day JCB first opened for business. JCB is the sponsor of JCB Academy, a new secondary school in Rocester which had its first intake of pupils in September 2010.

9.   Daily Mail and General Trust (Viscount Rothermere and family £2.12bn)
Although principally associated with the Daily Mail newspaper DMGT, a publicly listed company, is also one of Europe's largest media companies with newspaper, radio, television or publishing interests in Australia, USA and eastern Europe totalling 16,000 employees and 150 companies. Lord Rothermere took over the Daily Mail in 1922 and his family is still in control of the company and is headed by the 4th Viscount Rothermere, Jonathan Harmsworth, 43, who was appointed chairman aged 30 on the death of his father.

10.   Shop Direct Group (Barclay family, sales £1.9)
Based in Liverpool the UK's leading online retailer and largest home shopping company includes the brands Littlewoods, Kays and It has been performing strongly with more than 1m customers per day on its numerous websites, buying everything from iPads to dresses. Owned by Sir David and Sir Frederick Barclay, the twin brothers aged 76 also have property and media interests, including the Daily Telegraph and The Spectator. Born in Hammersmith as two of 10 children they left school at 16 to work in the accounts department of General Electric. Through the 1960s and 1970s they were property developers. The Barclay brothers move into retail began in the 1980s and they bought the Littlewoods retail chain in 2002, although the high street stores were subsequently purchased by Primark.

Additional notes

  1. The Institute for Family Business is an independent, not-for-profit, politically neutral, membership association which supports the UK family-owned business sector through Forums, Representation and Research.
  2. A firm qualifies as a family business if: 
  • The majority of votes are held by the person who established or acquired the firm or their spouses, parents, child or child's direct heirs
  • and at least one representative of the family is involved in the management or administration of the firm.
  • In the case of a listed company, the person who established or acquired the firm or their families possess 25% of the right to vote through their share capital and there is at least one family member on the board of the company.