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Bringing the family business community together

Britain's Top Family Businesses

31st July 2019 Paul Andrews

Family firms are clearly the backbone of the UK economy so which businesses are the largest family firms in Britain?

The Sunday Times recently published their Top Track 100 for 2019 which identifies Britain’s private companies with the largest sales.  All of the firms included in the report employ more than 100 people and generate turnover in excess of £700 million.

All too often people are dismissive of the family business sector yet the results are clear.  Of the top sixteen private businesses in the UK, 10 are family firms (62.5%). 

Furthermore, collectively the top 10 generate sales of £51 billion, profits of £5.8 billion and employ a staggering 232,000 people.

Family firms are clearly the backbone of the UK economy so which businesses are the largest family firms in Britain?

1 – EG Group  - Fuel Forecourt Operator
Turnover - £10.6 billion, 20,275 staff

Blackburn-born brothers Zuber and Mohsin Issa, both 47, have grown their business from a single petrol station launched in 2001 into one of the world’s largest fuel and forecourt operators with 5,500 sites and 33,000 staff.

2 – Swire – Conglomerate
Turnover - £10.6 billion, 92,256 staff

John Swire began importing cotton, sugar and rum from North America and the Caribbean into Liverpool in 1816. More than two centuries later, the family business operates across the Asia-Pacific region with interests that range from shipping, property and agriculture, to cold storage and airlines.

3 – Pentland Group – Brand Manager & Retailer
Turnover - £5.1 billion, 29,490 staff

Speedo, Mitre, Canterbury and Berghaus are among the clothing and sports brands managed by this London group, whose sales grew 39% to £5.1bn in 2018. Founded in 1932 as the Liverpool Shoe Company, it has been run by three generations of the Rubin family, with Stephen Rubin, 81, current chairman, and his son, Andy, 54, chairman of Pentland Brands, in charge today.

4 – Dyson – Appliance Manufacturer
Turnover - £4.4 billion, 9,500 staff

Dyson moved its headquarters from the UK to Singapore this year, where it will develop its first electric vehicle. Key team members, including chief executive Jim Rowan, 53, are now based there, but the group is continuing to invest in its UK sites, including a £200m expansion of its Wiltshire research hub to accommodate 2,000 workers and vehicle testing tracks. Global demand for its battery-powered vacuum cleaners, hairdryers and air purifiers helped sales grow 24% to £4.4bn in 2018.

5 – Arnold Clark – Car Dealer
Turnover - £4.2 billion, 12,232 staff

This Glasgow company is one of Britain’s largest independent car dealer groups, operating 200 dealerships and 150 service centres across the UK. It sells about 300,000 cars a year and has been expanding its used-car supermarket brand — Arnold Clark Motorstores — as new-car sales decline. Following the death of its founder, Sir Arnold Clark, in 2017, the company has been led by group managing director Eddie Hawthorne, 52.

6 – EMR – Metal Recycler
Turnover - £3.4 billion, 23,288 staff

Salvaging metal from the US aircraft carrier USS Ranger, which featured in the film Top Gun, and from retired Eurostar trains are just some of this Warrington firm’s recycling projects. Led by chief executive Chris Sheppard, 45, EMR recycles 10m tons of metal a year at more than 170 sites worldwide. Last year it opened a £4m recycling facility in Ashford, Kent, and recently finished dismantling the 60,000-ton USS Independence, sister aircraft carrier of USS Ranger, at its site in Brownsville, Texas.

7 – JCB – Construction Equipment Manufacturer
Turnover - £3.4 billion, 10,378 staff

This family-owned manufacturer won one of its largest orders in 2017 — a £110m contract to supply the US army with 1,600 forklifts. Its machinery is sold around the world, with India its largest market. Celebrating 40 years in the country, chairman Lord Bamford, 73, son of the founder, recently laid the foundation stone for a £65m factory in Gujarat. The firm is also moving cab construction to a new £50m plant near its Staffordshire headquarters later this summer.

8 – 2 Sisters Food Group – Food Producer
Turnover - £3.3 billion, 21,949 staff

This West Midlands food producer may be best known for its Fox’s Biscuits and Holland’s Pies brands, but its chicken processing business accounted for about two-thirds of its turnover in 2018. It also makes chilled meals, and is investing in its Carlisle factory after winning a five-year contract with M&S. The group is led by founder and president, Ranjit Boparan, 52, and chief executive Ronald Kers, 50.

9 – Bestway Group – Conglomerate
Turnover - £3.2 billion, 27,919 staff

Under chairman Sir Anwar Pervez, 84, this group has grown from a single grocery store, opened in 1963, to Britain’s largest, privately owned cash-and- carry group supplying more than 70,000 corner shops and 40,000 caterers and pubs. The London company owns a cement manufacturer and the UBL bank in Pakistan, and also operates 780 Well Pharmacy stores across the UK.

10 – Bet 365 – Online Bookmaker
Turnover - £2.8 billion, 4,236 staff

Bet365 has customers in more than 100 countries who can bet on a wide range of sports, play casino games and watch in excess of 160,000 live sport events a year. The company is taking its first steps into America this year, having signed deals with casinos in Atlantic City and the state of New York to provide onsite sports betting services.

Family Business United is delighted to see the family business sector so heavily represented in the list of private businesses and as an organisation is proud to champion and celebrate the contribution of family firms of all sizes and in all sectors.  Research like this clearly helps to provide support for the sector, to define the impact that family firms make and above all help dispel the myths surrounding the sector.

Clearly family firms are the engine room of the UK economy and deserve to be celebrated.

Check out the full listing of the Sunday Times Top Track 100 for 2019 here

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