Sir Leonard Blavatnik and wife Emily Appelson at the Grammy Awards in 2018.

Sir Leonard Blavatnik has topped the latest Sunday Times Rich List, having seen his fortune swell to £23bn.

The Ukranian-born oil and media magnate, who also owns Warner Music, saw his wealth surge by £7.2bn during the year.

He took the title from Sir James Dyson, whose wealth rose by only £100m to £16.3bn, leaving him in fourth place.

There are now a record 171 billionaires in UK, with their wealth rising 21.7% during the pandemic to £597.2bn.

Mr Blavatnik made his fortune in Russia where he owned stakes worth billions of pounds in companies selling metal and oil. He is a notoriously-private man, and holds both US and UK citizenship.

His wealth was boosted by the proceeds of a £1.37bn stake in Warner, which he received when it listed on the stock market in the US last year.

“The fact many of the super-rich grew so much wealthier at a time when thousands of us have buried loved ones and millions of us worried for our livelihoods makes this a very unsettling boom,” said Robert Watts, compiler of the annual index of the country’s wealthiest residents.

“The global pandemic created lucrative opportunities for many online retailers, social networking apps and computer games tycoons.”

Growing fortunes

Property investor brothers David and Simon Reuben were in second place after their fortune grew by £5.46bn to £21.46bn.

Sri and Gopi Hinduja, who run the Mumbai-based conglomerate Hinduja Group, took third spot after their wealth rose by £1bn.

Steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal, in fifth place, saw the biggest rise in wealth of any billionaire in the past 12 months, with gains of around £7.9bn, largely based on the rise in value of his ArcelorMittal steel-making business.

Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich was in eighth position after his fortune rose by £1.9bn to £12.1bn.

Rich List top 10

Soaring tech values

The study found the richest 250 people in the UK this year are worth £658.1bn, up from £565.7bn last year, a rise of 16.3%.

There are also more entrepreneurs behind unicorns – start-up businesses with a valuation higher than $1bn – to be found in the Rich List than before.

They include Farfetch, the luxury online fashion retailer, whose founder Jose Neves is a new entry at 82 in this year’s Rich List with a £2bn fortune.

Alex Chesterman, founder of online car dealing service Cazoo makes his first appearance at 215th with an estimated worth of £750m.

“The valuations of many rich listers’ companies have soared over the past year – especially the pack of tech businesses known as unicorns,” said Mr Watts.

“I worry about the strength of the foundations. No-one wants to see a re-run of the dotcom boom-and-bust of 20 years ago.”

Charitable donations

The Sunday Times does not just track how much money the mega-wealthy have accumulated each year. It also monitors how much of their fortune they give to charity.

Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford became the youngest person ever to top the paper’s giving list, which is calculated by ranking the amount donated or raised relative to a person’s overall wealth.

The 23-year old was behind a high-profile campaign calling for children who are eligible for free school meals to be fed during coronavirus lockdowns. He was estimated to have raised £20m to support the scheme, more than the £16m he is thought to be worth.

List of the top-ten charitable donors

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