Britain’s Top 10 Private Family Businesses 2017
10th July 2017
Last week The Sunday Times published its annual league table of Britain’s top 100 private companies. The list, produced by Fast Track, is published each July and includes non-listed firms employing over 100 people and with sales exceeding £630m.
Showing the incredible variety of private companies, this list is yet another testament to the fact that some of the biggest and most successful private businesses in the UK are family businesses, operating across all sectors and regions, with many long-standing members of the IFB amongst them.
Top 10 Private Family Firms 2017
1) John Swire & Sons (Swire family, sales £7.96bn)
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 Asian Pacific. The Group’s 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 130,000 worldwide. It is still a family concern and its previous Chairman, Sir Adrian Swire, is the great-great-grandson of the founder John Swire, and the current generation is represented on the board by third-great-grandson, Chairman Barnaby Swire. Barnaby is also a Board member of the IFB.
2) Arnold Clark Automobiles (Clark family, sales £3.66bn)
Europe’s largest privately-owned car dealer and one of Scotland’s biggest companies, the firm was founded 60 years ago by the eponymous Sir Arnold Clark. Unable find a job after leaving the RAF in 1954, Glasgow-born Arnold started 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. Arnold’s sons, Adam and John, are currently involved in the management of the business as Group Fleet Manager and Franchise Director.
3) Bestway Group (Pervez family, sales £3.34bn)
With 63 branches across England, Scotland and Wales, Bestway Wholsesale Group is the largest independent food wholesale group in the UK. It was founded in 1976 by Sir Anwar Pervez, who is still involved in the business as Chairman. He established Bestway’s first wholesale warehouse in Acton, West London, and the company soon expanded across the country and acquired Batley’s Plc in 2005 and Bellevue and Martex in 2011. Today Bestway employs over 33,000 people. Outside the UK, the company also operates in Pakistan, where it is the second largest shareholder of United Bank, while its subsidiary Bestway Cement is the largest local cement-maker.
4) 2 Sisters Food Group (Boparan family, sales £3.13bn)
Founded in the early 1990s, this Birmingham-based business makes Goodfella’s pizzas, Fox’s Biscuits and Bernard Matthews poultry products, as well as supplying own-label items for customers such as Aldi, M&S, Tesco and Sainsbury’s. Best known for its poultry division, which accounts for two-thirds of the group, it is led by its founder and chief executive, Ranjit Boparan. He owns the business with his wife, Baljinder, who is a director.
5) Pentland Group (Rubin family, sales £2.91bn)
Started in 1932 as a wholesaler, today London-based Pentland Group manages clothing and sports brands such as Berghaus, Canterbury and Speedo. The group designs products, makes them or outsources production and oversees marketing and distribution in over 190 countries. It owns a majority stake in JD Sports and in March 2017 acquired a controlling interest in the American footwear brand SeaVees. Owned by the founding Rubin family, Pentland is chaired by Stephen Rubin.
6) Dyson (Dyson family, sales £2.51bn)
Founded by Sir James Dyson, this manufacturer of bagless vacuum cleaners, bladeless fans and, more recently, hairdryers, Dyson sells its machines in over 65 countries worldwide. Born with an idea by Sir James to find a solution to the clogging vacuum cleaner, the firm prides itself on its continued interest in innovation and development, and is currently in the middle of a £2.5bn investment drive in robotics, battery technology and artificial intelligence.
7) JCB (Bamford family, sales £2.34bn)
Founded in 1945 by Joseph Cyril Bamford with a second-hand welding kit, this Staffordshire firm has since produced more than 1 million machines. The founder’s son, Lord Bamford, is the current Chairman and has been running the business since 1975. He made the decision to expand into India in 1979, and its operation there now generates almost 20% of its revenues.
8) Specsavers (Perkins family, sales £2.27bn)
Dame Mary Perkins, and Doug Perkins, started Specsavers in 1984 from their Guernsey home. Today it employs 30,000 people at nearly 2,000 branches in the UK, Europe, Australia and New Zealand, and 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. In April Specsavers agreed an £18m deal with Fujitsu to improve its instore technology.
9) Marshall Group (Marshall family, sales £2.26bn)
Founded in 1909, the Group had a turnover of nearly £1.6bn in 2015, and over 5,100 employees. Headquartered on an 900 acre site in Cambridge, Marshall operate in sectors including aerospace, defence, property and motor retail. The Cambridge firm is led by Robert Marshall, the fourth generation of the family to run it. His father, Sir Michael Marshall, retired as chairman in 2016 and was replaced by Alex Dorrian.
10) The Rigby Group (Rigby family, sales £2.17bn)
Rigby Group is the parent company for a portfolio of family-owned businesses operating across Europe and the Middle East. Diversifying from its origins as a principally technology-led business, Rigby Group has evolved over the last 41 years, and today operates across six key divisions, including Technology, Airports, Hotels, Real Estate, Aviation and Finance.
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