Wigan tycoon climbs further up rich list

Bill Ainscough
Bill Ainscough
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Wigan tycoon Bill Ainscough has climbed further up the North West’s rich list with a fortune now worth well over half a billion pounds.

The seventh Duke of Westminster (aka Hugh Grosvenor), 27, remains the region’s wealthiest with a fortune of £9.964bn, which has grown by £444m in the past year alone. Grosvenor became Britain’s youngest billionaire after inheriting his title on the death of his father Gerald two years ago.

But Mr Ainscough, part of hugely successful business dynasty that also includes his cousin and fellow Wigan Youth Zone founder Martin, has seen his branch of the family’s wealth increase by £46m to £566m in the last 12 months. This moves him one place up the regional list from last year to 16th.

Today the 69-year-old said his sons Will and Richard - who run his two main property businesses Wainhomes and Network Space (previously Langtree) - should be taking much of the credit.

But he did say that a few basic pieces of advice, taught to him by his scrap dealer dad Joe, had always held true.

Mr Ainscough said: “Ultimately it’s down to hard work, thrift, being sensible and keeping busy. We were brought up in that manner in Lancashire.

“The businesses are doing quite nicely. I’m not so much involved in them now with my sons doing a lot of the day-to-day work so I can spend some time on my Wrightington farm.

“I am 70 this year although I do still like to keep myself busy.”

As for the Sunday Times rich list on which he appears, he said: “I don’t set much store in these things. I don’t think they are terribly scientific.”

Mr Ainscough is involved in a number of charities, not only the Youth Zone but also as a trustee of the organisation OnSide which runs this chain of youth clubs and for a number of other regional children’s good causes.

Among the top five on the regional list are Fred and Peter Done who are worth £1.35bn, up £20m. Owners of Betfred, the bookmaker boasts more than 1,650 UK outlets and shops at 51 racecourses and took over the Wigan-based Tote for £265m. Group profits cantered to £32.4m to £578.7m in 2015-16, and it shows £95.4m assets.

Elsewhere in the top 20 there is further proof that discount stores are defying the retail gloom elsewhere on the high street and generating significant wealth increases for their operators, two of whom are based in the region.

Home Bargains continues to succeed and bucks the popular trend towards online shopping by opening more and more high street stores. The enterprise, which is wholly owned by Tom Morris and family, is expected to pass 500 stores this year and intends to have between 800 and 1,000 before long.

It began as a single store in 1976 and is now Merseyside’s biggest employer, Home Bargains has become the largest independent grocer in the country.

With profits of £168.2m in 2016-17 and such a strong balance sheet, the operation is worth £3.4bn (up £400m this year) when compared with quoted rivals such as B&M.