Doubts over 'richest man' label

Click to follow
The Independent Online
GROCERIES, not girlie mags, have created Britain's richest man. The supermarket boss David Sainsbury is almost certainly wealthier than Paul Raymond, the pornographer acclaimed this week as Britain's richest man by Business Age magazine.

Even if the magazine's estimate that Mr Raymond has a pounds 1.5bn fortune is true, then he is still pipped into second place by Mr Sainsbury whose, stake in J Sainsbury was worth pounds 1.79bn at yesterday's 520p share price.

The estimate of Mr Raymond's wealth is based on the premise that he owns 18 per cent of all property in Soho, the district of restaurants, theatres, offices and strip joints in central London.

One chartered surveyor said: 'I'd be very surprised if it's true. He's not known to be a very big landlord in Soho.' Another surveyor said the pounds 1.5bn figure was pie in the sky. The entire office space of Soho was worth only about pounds 750m.

Simon Calvert, of surveyors Debenham Tewson Chinnocks, said Soho property had been hit badly because many occupants were in the media sector, badly affected by the recession. 'Prices have at least halved since the beginning of 1988.'

Tom Rubython, editor of Business Age, defended the article. 'It (his wealth) is probably vastly higher. We did a lot of donkey work on the streets of Soho and we didn't include his girlie magazines in Eastern Europe. No one knew about Sam Walton (late owner of Walmart stores) until Forbes Magazine listed him as the richest man in America.'

The private company Paul Raymond Organisation holds 100 per cent of Paul Raymond Publications, the pornography and theatres operation, and the property company Soho Estates. PRO's freehold land and buildings are valued at pounds 6.74m, the cost of buying them. But some were purchased more than 30 years ago and would have appreciated substantially.

In the year to 31 December 1991, PRO made sales of pounds 25.35m and pre-tax profits of pounds 11.52m, up from pounds 5.11m the previous year. Ignoring the property portfolio, that would value the company at about pounds 120m- pounds 150m. Paul Raymond publications lifted profits before tax from pounds 2.7m to pounds 9.6m in 1991.