The billionaire Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft is to sign a pledge to give at least half of his estimated £1.2bn fortune to charity, it emerged today.
Lord Ashcroft, who founded the Crimestoppers charity as well as being a major donor to the Tory Party, is to join the philanthropic movement led by Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, America’s two richest men.
He is expected to sign the Giving Pledge, a public commitment by billionaires to give away the majority of their wealth – either before or after they die – next month.
Another six of Britain’s richest individuals have already made the pledge. Based on their current wealth the seven donors, including Sir Richard and Lady Branson and John Caudwell, have pledged a combined £3.7bn.
In the past year Lord Ashcroft has given £5m to Anglia Ruskin University; £1m to complete the Bomber Command war memorial in London and a further £1m to help refurbish the First World War galleries at the Imperial War Museum in London.
Over the years, Lord Ashcroft, who, alongside his businesses around the world, also runs a political publishing empire in the UK, has given the Tory party £10m.
The peer has indicated that he does not believe in inherited wealth. In 2008 he wrote: “I have prepared my will. I have never been a great believer in inherited wealth. More than 80 per cent of my assets — and I never discuss how much I am worth — will be left to a charitable foundation in my name.”
Lord Ashcroft’s commitment comes as the 25th edition of The Sunday Times Rich List reveals that the collective wealth of the richest 1,000 has reached a record £450bn, up £35bn on last year.
After eight years as Britain’s richest man, Lakshmi Mittal, the steel tycoon, has fallen to fourth place, with a £2.7bn drop in his fortune to £10bn. The richest man in Britain is now Alisher Usmanov, 59, a part-owner of Arsenal football club. Born in Uzbekistan but a Russian citizen, he owes his £13.3bn fortune to mobile phone and mining interests.