Britain's richie-rich club saw their wealth melting away by more than half to 200 billion pounds in a year marked with a severe economic downturn, while Indian-origin steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal took the biggest hit.
With the net worth of some billionaires getting hit by as much as 90 per cent, Mittal and another Indian-origin business tycoon in Britain Anil Agarwal are among those having sufferred the biggest losses, The Sunday Times reported on Sunday.
"Research for the 2009 Sunday Times Rich List, to be published in the spring, suggests that the fortunes of the 1,000 wealthiest people in the UK have fallen more than 50 per cent from 412.8 billion pounds in the list for 2008 to about 200 billion pounds," the report said.
Topping the list of those witnessing "their fortunes decline most spectacularly include Lakshmi Mittal, the steel magnate, who has topped the Rich List for the past four years and who, in this year's list, had family wealth of 27.7 billion pounds. He is now worth about 11 billion pounds.
"The mining tycoon Anil Agarwal has seen almost 1.5 billion pounds knocked off the value of his stake in Vedanta Resources. he now has less than 1 billion pounds," the report noted.
Terming Mittal as "the biggest faller of all," the report said that at the start of this year, his family stake in the world's biggest steel company ArcelorMittal was worth 25 billion pounds, but then soared to more than 33 billion pounds in the summer.
Other significant losers include Sir Tom Hunter, the sportswear tycoon, and Sir Stelios HajiIoannou, founder of the easyJet airline.
The weekly quoted William Rubinstein, co-author of The Richest of the Rich, which traced the wealthiest people in Britain since the Norman Conquest, as saying that "these figures suggest that only the 1930s and the South Sea bubble are comparable in scale to what is happening now".
"In the early 18th century, swathes of society from nobles to Oxford dons, clergymen and even King George I, risked their money on shares in the South Sea Company. It had been granted exclusive trading rights in South America and also took on some of Britain's national debt," the report said.
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"Ramped up by insider dealing, bribery of ministers and outrageous claims about trading prospects, its shares rose 10-fold in less than a year to 1,000 pounds. When the bubble burst, the shares collapsed to 170 pounds in less than three months."
The king had lost 56,000 pounds at that time, which is equivalent to 800 million pounds at current rates, while the the Duke of Chandos "was out of pocket by anything between 300,000 pounds and 800,000 pounds."
The Sunday Times quoted one of the 75 billionaires on the 2008 Rich List, who did not want to be named, as saying that "the ones left standing are the people with lots of money and liquidity."
"One in six of those on the 2008 Rich List are in finance and their estimated worth is down by more than 70 per cent. The hardest-hit include 50 multi-millionaire house builders who have seen values sink by up to 90 per cent."
"That stake is now down to 9.5 billion pounds." The report quoted a spokesperson for Mittal as saying, "He doesn't comment on his personal affairs. He is hardly immune to things but he is not affected by them the way most people might be."