Former Sunderland AFC owner Ellis Short loses billionaire status as fortune slumps by £140million - and Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley remains top in North East as Sunday Times Rich List revealed

Former Sunderland owner Ellis Short’s expensive tenure of the Black Cats has cost him his billionaire status, the new edition of The Sunday Times Rich List has revealed.

By David Allison
Friday, 10 May, 2019, 06:00
Ellis Short

American Short, 58, sees his fortune slump by £140million after agreeing to walk away from Sunderland and wipe out debts of at least £116.7million, according to the latest club accounts.

He left the club in 2018 after a second successive relegation left the club in the third tier of English football for only the second time in its history.

Short poured in at least £200million into SAFC during his nine-year stint at the helm and he is now worth £860million, down £340million in two years.

Travelling in the same direction as Short is Newcastle United chairman, Mike Ashley, who remains the North East’s richest man and its sole billionaire with a fortune of £1.976billion, down £461million on last year, thanks in no small part to the £150million he lost when Debenhams collapsed last month, taking Ashley’s 30% stake in the business with it.

The tycoon was left fuming when banks and other creditors assumed control of Debenhams, costing Ashley every penny he poured into the ailing department store chain, and he has since threatened legal action.

Newcastle United is still up for sale.

Middlesbrough chairman Steve Gibson, centre.

Despite going on the market as far back as October 2017, a deal to sell the club has not yet been reached and he faces delicate negotiations to keep manager Rafa Benitez at the club beyond the end of his contract in June.

Ashley’s main source of wealth is his Sports Direct business, the value of which has dropped to £1.54billion from a peak of £5billion in 2014, with his personal stake now worth £939.4m.

While he remains a deeply divisive figure, he has emerged as a champion of the high street in the past 12 months, criticising business rates and demanding a tax for online ventures, while at the same time buying up House of Fraser, Evans Cycles and Sofa.com.

The 54-year-old’s wealth remains well down on the £3.75billion he reached five years ago.

Sting.

Middlesbrough chairman Steve Gibson moves up to ninth in the region, with a fortune of £210million – up £15million – which is mostly tied up in his Bulkhaul tank transport operation.

Also on the list is Newcastle-raised musician Sting whose wealth has risen £10million to £200million.

Phil Cronin and family, who took control of Sunderland printing firm Edward Thompson, is in 11th place on the list after the family’s wealth grew to £190million, up £37million on last year.

Wearside entrepreneur Sir Peter Vardy and family is in 12th with an estimated wealth of £187million, a loss of £10million on last year.

Company chairman Dame Margaret Barbour

Robert Watts, compiler of The Sunday Times Rich List, said: “A lot of people say the rich only ever getter richer, but our North East Rich List shows that isn’t always true.

“Turbulence on the stock market, political deadlock over Brexit and the cyclone of change sweeping through our high streets has hammered the wealth of some of the region’s super-rich.

“Around a third of the North East’s super-rich have seen their wealth fall since last year – a higher proportion than other parts of the UK.

“It’s easy to think this doesn’t matter to the rest of us.

“But if a bad year encourages these tycoons to shrink their businesses the implications can be big for our communities.”

Dame Margaret and Helen Barbour and family, owners of the South Shields clothing business, are up £40million to £395million.

Phil Cronin

Their trademark wax jackets, pioneered by Scottish founder John Barbour, have been sported on-screen by Daniel Craig in the James Bond film, Skyfall, and are also popular with members of the royal family, including the Duchess of Sussex.

The brand is today run by Dame Margaret, 79, and her daughter Helen, 52.

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Former teacher Margaret took over the firm after her husband, John Barbour, great-grandson of the founder, died aged 29 in 1968.

The Barbour Beacon range was introduced last year for younger buyers, and profits have risen to £33.4million on sales of £202.3million.

The family foundation finances the Women’s Fund, which helps women within Tyne and Wear and Northumberland develop their potential.

The Fenwicks were forced to close stores in Windsor and Leicester last year, which cost more than 400 people their jobs, but the family remain in third place on the North East Rich List, despite a £30million fall in their wealth.

Profits in the business plunged from £30.4million to just £2million in 2017-18, although the company still managed to pay a £5.1million dividend to the owning family.

North East Rich List 2019 2019 wealth Increase/Decrease

1. Mike Ashley £1.976bn Down £461m

2. Ellis Short £860m Down £140m

3. Mark Fenwick and family £700m Down £30m

4. Alastair and Michael Powell £515m Up £90m

5. Peter Stephenson and family £468m Down £15m

6. Duke of Northumberland £419m Up £37m

7. Dame Maragaret and Helen Barbour and family £395m Up £40m

8. Duncan Bannatyne £300m Up £20m

9. Steve Gibson £210m Up £15m

10. Sting £200m Up £10m

11. Phil Cronin and family £190m Up £37m

12. Sir Peter Vardy and family £187m Down £10m

13= Michael Cannon £170m No change

13= Graham Wylie £170m Up £10m

15. Raj Sehgal and Sanjeev Mehan and family £163m Up £3m

16. Stuart Monk and family £159m Up £17m

17. Chai Patel £154m Up £4m

18. Jonathan Ruffer £151m Down £274m

19. Duncan Davidson and family £149m Down £26m

20. Carol Kane £141m Up £21m

Sir Peter Vardy.