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Bags of money? Buy up London

How London became the home from home of the international rich

22 June 2013

9:00 AM

22 June 2013

9:00 AM

I can’t say I’m surprised that Ukip has started to attract support from rich aristocrats in the City of London, with several of them writing large cheques to the party at a fund-raiser last month. They are feeling swamped by the sheer scale of immigration to our capital. In their case, though, it’s not benefit tourists that are the problem. Rather, it’s the arrival of the world’s super-rich, pricing them out of London’s most desirable neighbourhoods and making it harder and harder to get their not very bright little darlings into good schools.

It’s 25 years since Nigel Lawson’s budget made London one of the most appealing places in the world to be rich. In the last year, the number of foreigners entering the country on Tier 1 visas — only available to those who have more than £1 million to invest in the UK — jumped by 78 per cent. One of the perks of this visa is that you’re eligible for fast-track residency status, with those who invest £10 million qualifying for indefinite leave to remain after just two years. Best of all, a significant percentage of your ‘investment’ can be in the London housing market. Which might explain why more than 60 per cent of all sales above £2 million in the capital are currently going to overseas buyers.

Britain has long held many attractions for wealthy immigrants. Its laws are respected, its political system is stable and its officials are honest, making it a safe haven for those with large fortunes to protect. But London has become even more attractive thanks to its ever-improving international transport links. One of the unforeseen consequences of the Channel Tunnel is that London is now the world’s sixth-largest French city — and this population is growing all the time thanks to François Hollande’s 75 per cent super tax. French nationals now comprise 4 per cent of the population of Kensington and Chelsea, the UK’s wealthiest borough. It even has its own lycée.

It was considerate of France’s well-heeled immigrants to bring their own school. One of the loudest complaints of London’s dwindling population of rich Britons is that they can no longer afford to educate their children at their alma maters. At St Paul’s School, for instance, the fees have risen at twice the rate of inflation in the past ten years, and even those British children whose parents can afford the fees find it hard to compete with the over-achieving offspring of Chinese billionaires. At Westminster, the school’s brightest pupils do A-levels in Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Maths and Further Maths — a combination known as ‘the Asian five’.

But before we turn to Nigel Farage, it’s worth reflecting on the astonishing achievements, whether in finance or culture, of those who have chosen to make London their home.

It’s not just about making it an exciting place to be or to visit; the London property market bucked the national trend last year, with average house prices increasing by 13 per cent. That wouldn’t have happened without all that foreign capital sloshing around. Indeed, London’s economy wouldn’t be nearly so buoyant if it weren’t for the non-doms.

And don’t forget the restaurants. British food used to have the reputation of being the worst in the world. Today, London has better restaurants than Paris, New York and Tokyo combined. OK, we natives cannot afford to eat in them. But still. It’s nice to know they’re there.

Adopted londoners

Arpad Busson
At just one dinner in 2008 the hedge-fund manager raised almost £26 million for his charity ARK.


Gwyneth Paltrow
Happily juicing green vegetables and dispensing her Goop wisdom from Belsize Park since 2003.


Lana Del Rey
The pouty New York songstress lives in London but supports Liverpool FC.


Anish Kapoor
The Indian-born sculptor and purveyor of high-concept helter-skelter rides has lived here since the 1970s.


Zaha Hadid
The Iraqi-born architect contributed the Aquatic Centre to London’s Olympic Park.


Tamara Rojo
Spanish ballerina — a principal dancer with the English National Ballet and now its artistic director too. A force of nature.


Jussi Pylkkanen
Going, going, g—… oh no, actually the President of Christie’s Europe is staying in London.


Michael Fassbender
The hottest Irish export to Hollywood is a Hackney resident


Ron Arad
Israeli-born designer. His breakthrough piece was a seat from a Rover car housed in the frame of a milking stall.


Clive James
Critic, poet, legend. Hails from Oz.


Barry Humphries
See above, possums. Moved to London in 1959. Wave your glads for Edna and give Les Patterson Maria Miller’s job.


Alan Yau
Founded Wagamama, Busuba Eathai, Hakkasan and Yauatcha, to show the Brits that Oriental cuisine doesn’t have to mean MSG and banana fritters.


Xavier Rolet
CEO of the London Stock Exchange Group. Yes, the Stock Exchange is controlled by a Frenchman!


Alexander & Evgeny Lebedev
Gave the Evening Standard to London – literally. Co-own the Grapes pub in Limehouse (with Ian McKellen).


Donald Gordon
The Royal Opera House’s Grand Tier is named after the South African insurance magnate. Understandably — he gave them £20 million.


Tim Minchin
An Australian in north London. He applied his eye-linered humour to Roald Dahl’s Matilda and made it a huge West End and Broadway hit.


Eduard Shifrin
You’re born in 1960, you get a PhD in metallurgy, you take control of a steelmaker, you make yourself over a billion dollars … just a typical Ukrainian story these days.


Mahdi Al Tajir
Born in Bahrain, he now owns Highland Spring. Selling water to the Brits — next he’ll be selling snow to the Inuits.


Kevin Spacey
In 2003 he moved to London to became artistic director of the now booming Old Vic, once threatened with going bust.


Charlene de Carvalho-Heineken
Heineken because of her father; de Carvalho because of her husband Michel, who at 17 played an Arab boy in Lawrence of Arabia.


Joseph Lau
Hong Kong property billionaire. His Eaton Square house has a gold-plated swimming pool. No really, it’s gold-plated.


Tim Burton
American director, lives in north London with his wife Helena Bonham Carter.


Nasser Khalili
Iranian-born scholar, collector and philanthropist, called ‘the cultural ambassador of Islam’ by leaders of Muslim countries.


Ronald Cohen
Egyptian-born ‘father of British venture capital’. One of the companies he has funded cloned Dolly the sheep.


Louis Bacon
The American who showed London that ‘hedge fund’ didn’t mean the legal costs in a Leylandii dispute.


Michael Hintze
Australian philanthropist who has given millions to the Old Vic, the National Theatre, the National Gallery and, the oldest show of all, the Conservative party.


John Studzinski
American veteran of Morgan Stanley and HSBC, his work with Human Rights Watch is a reminder that perhaps not all bankers are evil.


Sigrid Rausing
Used her part of the TetraPak fortune to buy Granta magazine and give nearly £200 million to good causes.


Alisher Usmanov
£13.3 billion fortune and top place on the 2013 Sunday Times Rich List, achieved in part by owning a third of Arsenal FC.


Leonard Blavatnik
Ukrainian with second place on the 2013 Sunday Times Rich List, achieved in part by owning Warner, Parlophone and other bits of EMI.


Frederick Mulder
Canadian art dealer, based in Belsize Park, who favours giving his profits to charity over buying yachts.


Richard Gnodde
Born in South Africa, now CEO of Goldman Sachs International.


Lord Darzi
Iraqi-born medic who holds the key to keyhole surgery.


Illustration: Brett Ryder

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