Britain’s Top 10 Private Family Businesses
16th July 2018
The Sunday Times has recently published its annual league table of Britain’s top 100 private companies with the largest sales. The list, produced by Fast Track, is published each July and includes non-listed firms employing over 100 people and with sales exceeding £700m.
The results showcase the incredible variety of private companies and are testament to the important role of family business. We have listed below the UK’s top ten family businesses of 2018, among which are many longstanding members of the IFB.
1. Swire (Swire family, sales £10.5bn)
London-based Swire operates across the Asia-Pacific region and has interests in many sectors, including shipping, property, agriculture, cold storage and airlines — including a minority stake in Cathay Pacific. Sales grew 31% to £10.5bn last year, partly due to expansion of its Coca-Cola bottling operations in China and America. Barnaby Swire has been chairman of the family business since 2014; his cousin, Merlin Swire, became chairman of Hong Kong-based Swire Pacific and Swire Properties on 1 July.
2. Arnold Clark (Clark family, sales 3.9bn)
One of Britain’s largest independent car dealers group, this Glasgow family business was founded in 1954 by Sir Arnold Clark. Sir Arnold started trading cars in the 1950s after leaving the RAF. Now led by group managing director Eddie Hawthorne, Arnold Clark has over 200 dealerships across the UK.
3. Pentland Group (Rubin family, sales £3.6bn)
Started in 1932 as a wholesaler, London-based Pentland manages clothing and sports brands such as Speedo, Berghaus and Canterbury. In January, it launched a new footwear venture with Lacoste, and in March, acquired Scottish cyclewear brand Endura. Owned by the founding Rubin family, Pentland is chaired by Stephen Rubin.
4. Dyson (Dyson family, sales £3.5bn)
Founded by Sir James Dyson, this manufacturer of bagless vacuum cleaners and bladeless fans is in the middle of a £2.5bn investment drive in electric vehicles, robotics, battery technology and artificial intelligence. Growth in Asia and demand for its hairdryers and air purifiers saw sales jump 40% in 2017 to £3.5bn, with profits up 27% to £801m. Last year, the Wiltshire company promoted chief operating officer Jim Rowan to chief executive.
5. Bestway Group (Pervez family, sales £3.3bn)
From a single grocery store, opened in 1963, Bestway has grown to be Britain’s largest, privately owned cash-and-carry group. The London company also operates 798 Well Pharmacy stores across the UK, as well as a cement manufacturer and a bank in Pakistan. It is chaired by Sir Anwar Pervez.
6. 2 Sisters Food Group (Boparan family, sales £3.3bn)
This West Midlands food producer is best known for its poultry division, which accounted for two-thirds of its £3.3bn in sales last year. It has been restructuring its businesses: in April, it completed the sale of its Goodfella’s pizzas division to Nomad Foods, and it has announced plans to close plants in Scotland and the West Midlands. The group is led by founder and president, Ranjit Boparan.
7. EMR (Sheppard family, £3.1bn)
Salvaging metal from US aircraft carrier USS Ranger, which featured in the film Top Gun, and from retired Eurostar trains are just some of this Warrington firm’s recycling projects. Led by its chief executive Chris Sheppard, EMR recycles 10m tons of metal a year at 170 sites worldwide. Sales were up 39% to £3.1bn in 2017, driven by the increase in commodity prices as demand for ferrous and non-ferrous metals strengthened.
8. JCB (Bamford family, sales £2.6bn)
Founded in 1945 by Joseph Cyril, this Staffordshire firm is now chaired by the founder’s son Lord Bamford. He unveiled firm’s first electric excavator in March this year. The business also recruited 600 new employees in the first half of the year, citing “unprecedented global demand” for its machines. Profits rose 36% to £221m in 2016, boosted by a new factory opened in Jaipur in 2014. The company first began operating in India in 1979 and the country now accounts for about 20% of JCB’s revenue.
9. Specsavers (Perkins family, sales £2.6bn)
Dame Mary and Doug Perkins, 74 and 75, started Specsavers in 1984 from their Guernsey home. Today, it employs 32,500 people at nearly 2,000 branches in the UK, Europe, Australia and New Zealand, and is considering launching in Canada. It says its success is partly due to its business model — each shop is part-owned by the opticians running it, while Specsavers provides marketing and IT support. It is trialling concessions in Sainsbury’s supermarkets, with 15 opened so far in the UK.
10. Marshall Group (Marshall family, sales £2.6bn)
Family-owned Marshall Group operates in sectors including aerospace, defence, property and motor retail. It is led by chief executive Robert Marshall, whose family have been running the Cambridge business for four generations — and chairman Alex Dorrian CBE. Its largest subsidiary is its AIM-listed car dealership, Marshall Motor Holdings, which accounted for 86% of total revenues in 2017.