Accountancy Rich List 2017
economia team 8 Sep 2017 01:59pm

The Accountancy Rich List: interviews and profiles

Welcome to the fourth economia Accountancy Rich List, supported by Netwealth, which this year features an exclusive interview with entrepreneur Brian Scowcroft
Caption: Ilustration by Marcel Piekarski

The fourth economia Rich List reveals that the millionaire/billionaire accountants in the Top 100 are worth £43.2bn, up from £30.3bn last year (a 42.5% increase). This year we have 14 billionaires against eight last year. Our top 10 are worth £20.72bn, a rise of £5bn on last year’s £15.68bn, a cool 32.1% rise in a year. We also have 18 new entries this year over the UK and Eire. Despite operating in what has been an unusual geo-political environment, business is good.

As with the complete Sunday Times Rich List, the overwhelming majority of the entrants are male. But more striking is the traits they often share. We’ve chosen to highlight five from the list who stand out for their strategic thinking; for their entrepreneurial drive and analytical minds; and for their risk-taking attitude and desire to leave a legacy that’s about more than just the numbers.

The list, complete with profiles, can be found on our website at


10. Paul Coulson



Described by the Irish edition of The Independent as one of the country’s most savvy businessmen, Paul Coulson trained at Price Waterhouse and spent five years in London and Dublin before starting his own practice, Bates Coulson. He left the profession in 1982 to set up Yeoman International, an aircraft leasing and investment firm, but his decision to take over a relatively small Irish business, formerly known as the Irish Glass Bottle Company, in 1998 changed his life. As executive chair he has transformed Ardagh through debt-financed acquisition into one of the biggest metal and glass packaging companies in the world with global sales of around €7.7bn and clients including Carlsberg, John West and Nescafé. Coulson, who has a personal 39% stake in the company, took it private in 2003 and in 2016 led the buy-out of metal beverage container manufacturers Ball Corporation (US) and Rexam (UK) for €3bn. In March 2016, Ardagh held an IPO of its shares at the New York Stock Exchange, which aims to raise €250m for a 5% stake. That would value Coulson’s stake at €1.8bn (£1.59bn). Speaking to The Independent, he said he’s relaxed about the debt: “We have a steady cash flow, which allows us to deleverage and grow... People have got to eat and drink. That makes it a steady business.”


32. Sir Michael Bibby



After qualifying at Coopers & Lybrand Michael Bibby moved to Unilever as a project accountant before bringing his industry knowledge back into the family business as FD in 1992. Bibby Line Group, which is over 200 years old, has faced its challenges, particularly in the offshore oil and gas markets, and in 2015 revenues fell 15% to £1.45bn while profits also fell to £29.5m. But it has a strong balance sheet, £298m net assets, and the Bibby family’s 89% stake is now worth £250m. In the EY Family Yearbook 2015, Sir Michael, now MD, says the decision to turn the business into a “mini-conglomerate” – moving it away from a shipping brand to a business services group – has minimised risk. By diversifying into money-generating sectors such as retail and financial services, he says Bibby will remain a “sound and growing business for the seventh generation to take over”. Speaking to Maritime UK, he said: “Owners need to find individual niches... We’re building a vessel to service deep-water offshore windfarms, which is a specialist vessel that will be harder to replicate, so it will be more difficult for new players to come in and trash the price.”

In May 2016 Sir Michael Bibby said it is critical to look forwards, not backwards; to think practically and move with the times. British shipowning, he said, is “not in decline”


53. Brian Scowcroft



He left the profession soon after completing articles at Deardon Farrow, but the decision to train as a chartered accountant was a life-changing one for Brian Scowcroft. Deciding he’d like to join his father’s business, insurance company Swinton, he put himself through the mill to get business-ready – as a young father of two he was working, studying and raising a family at the same time. But his qualification earned him respect and gave him the confidence to get involved at Swinton straight away as accountant and then FD. “I wasn’t there just because I was the son of the owner,” Scowcroft says. “I’d independently got my qualification and being a chartered accountant counts for a lot. People know how tough it is to qualify”

Scowcroft helped oversee rapid growth at Swinton. The decision to sell a 30% stake to Sun Alliance, which also provided the business with a soft loan, meant it could expand from 235 shops to more than 700. But the market was changing from high street to telephone sales, and Scowcroft thinks the decision to exit the business and sell to Sun in 1998 was probably his best: “The best one is hopefully the next one,” he clarifies, “but a good decision was the timing of when we sold Swinton. The market was changing, shops were no longer appropriate,” he explains.

Scowcroft didn’t exit business altogether. He moved into the industrial property market and has since built a sizable portfolio, turning old factory sites or former military bases into modern industrial estates and business parks, the most prominent being Kingmoor Park, in Carlisle. “That turned out to be a very good investment for me,” says Scowcroft. This in turn influenced his altruistic attitude to business and the desire to leave a legacy behind his developments. “Because Carlisle City Council and Cumbria County Council chose me to develop the site, I felt I should therefore put something back. That led to me sponsoring two academies,” he says.

His next move is one to watch: after a “lightbulb moment” lying on a beach in Barbados, Scowcroft’s business Land and Lakes purchased 600 acres of land from Anglesey Aluminium Metals, which includes the historic Penrhos Estate, to create a new leisure development that could include accommodation for the Wylfa nuclear power plant workers [see box].

Although this latest project is taking up a lot of his time, he says his wealth has given him freedom. “For the last 19 years I haven’t gone to work on a daily basis,” he says. “It’s enabled me to really enjoy life. I’m an outdoor person. I do motorbiking, I have an old car collection, I ski, I sail. We’ve got eight season tickets at Manchester United between me, my sons and my grandsons. We all go to the matches together. That’s what the wealth has enabled me to do.”

Speaking to economia in June 2017, Brian Scowcroft says his one regret is not buying a stake in Manchester United FC when he was offered the chance


65. Killian Hurley



Another Price Waterhouse alumnus – he qualified as a chartered accountant in 1983 – Killian Hurley’s decision to leave the profession for the property sector was a shrewd one. He co-founded Mount Anvil, in which he is the majority stakeholder, in 1991 and since then the business has seen over 10-fold growth, from a turnover of £24m in 2004 to a record profit of £66m in 2015, against turnover of £252m. The house builder and developer has delivered more than 5,000 homes and plans to build at least 2,500 more by 2018 (the company has started to cut back on acquisitions in response to an “inflated land market” and is focusing on large complex regeneration sites in London). In 2016 Hurley told Estates Gazette: “Residential is sexy now.” But that brings its own challenges: “The number of players coming into London is staggering.” With an eye on the skills shortage as well as a responsibility to give back, Mount Anvil launched a National Skills Academy for Construction with the Construction Industry Training Board. It provides training for 100 Londoners looking to embark on a career in construction through apprenticeships, NVQs, work placements and work experience. He says of his accountancy training: “Being an accountant I always want to know what the downside is: whether we can afford it. The first job when we are looking at a contract is to produce a risk register. Where is it? What’s in the land? What about road closures? Can we identify the risk?”

On teaming up with Aston Martin in 2016, Killian Hurley said a mixture of stamp duty hikes and Brexit meant developers had to work harder to sell London flats


78. Avnish Goyal

Care homes


After training as an accountant with PricewaterhouseCoopers, Avnish Goyal decided to go into property instead of the profession, and cut his teeth working with his parent’s property portfolio.

His decision in 1997 to create a care home business, Hallmark Healthcare, was to make his fortune: today it’s an award-winning, family-owned operation with 17 care homes, 1,200 employees and profits of £7m on £52.8m sales. Not just a business director – Goyal describes himself as part of a personal development community, committed to making a difference, and is also chair of Care England and the founding trustee of the Care Workers’ Charity – he says the childhood memory of arriving in the UK from India in 1970 “with nothing but the clothes on our backs” continues to drive him.

The business has recently announced a partnership to expand its offering by forming Goldfinch Developments, a construction company that will develop projects for other care providers as well as Hallmark. Goyal says: “Personal development should never be underestimated – we all have room to improve and make a positive difference to the lives of others.”

Describing his life as “a whirlwind”, Avnish Goyal says on his website: “It’s important to step back and reflect on what I have achieved, the people I’ve met, what my goals are”