Billionaires and businessmen like James Dyson and Tina Green own British property over foreign companies, according to a new register designed to improve transparency.
The tycoons are on a list a Guardian inquiry revealed last week, including racing driver Lewis Hamilton, the Chinese government, a number of golf kings and at least 20 Tory party donors.
The declarations will be made in the UK Government’s new register of foreign companies. Holding property by offshore companies is legal. All persons entered in the register as beneficial owners have complied with their statutory reporting requirements.
But the register sheds light on how billions of pounds are owned in mostly London property through jurisdictions like the British Virgin Islands (BVI) and the Channel Islands. The Guardian believes there is a public interest in reporting on the business interests and ownership structures of wealthy and influential people.
Dyson is listed as the beneficial owner of Weybourne Holdings Pte, a Singapore-based multinational which also houses the Dyson appliances company, the family office to manage its personal wealth and a number of commercial properties in the UK. Our analysis suggests that Weybourne owns 31 UK properties valued at least £287m according to land register records.
In 2019, Dyson moved its home appliances business to the city-state of Singapore.
Dyson, Britain’s second richest person, drew criticism for relocating his businesses after previously touting Brexit as a major opportunity for British entrepreneurs. He said the decision to move was motivated by access to supply chains and customers in Asia.
Weybourne Holdings’ assets include office buildings in London’s Mayfair and Camden boroughs, a £43million strip of land on the Greenwich Peninsula, and sites in York and Oxfordshire.
Most were owned by the UK-based Weybourne Group until 2019, the year Dyson moved to Singapore when it was sold to Weybourne Holdings Pte. Some were bought after the company moved abroad, land registry records show.
There’s no indication that Dyson gained a tax advantage by holding the properties through Singapore.
Dyson’s lawyers said there was no tax benefit from owning the properties through Weybourne Holdings Pte, adding that some of the properties were occupied by companies within the Dyson group.
Weybourne’s ownership of the properties is public knowledge and reflects investments in the UK, they added.
Lady Green, the wife of Philip Green, the retail tycoon who suffered a dramatic fall when his retail empire fell apart, also appears in the Foreign Companies Register.
Her entries in the register match documents from the Pandora Papers leak of offshore data, which showed she embarked on a property buying spree as the BHS retail empire teetered on collapse.
In June 2015 she bought a Mayfair flat for £4.95million via an offshore company through Amberley Limited, incorporated in the British Virgin Islands. Green is identified as the owner of Amberley and British Virgin Islands-based Hulverstone Investments, which paid £15million for a luxury triplex apartment in Mayfair in March 2016. She also acquired a £10.6million Belgravia mansion through British Virgin Islands-based Mottistone Holdings.
Lawyers for Green said she had not been resident or established in the UK for more than 23 years and that the ownership was legal and legitimate. They added that their real estate investments are entirely separate from Philip Green’s business interests, including BHS.
Camden Market’s owner, Teddy Sagi, is named as the owner of 27 registered companies incorporated in the British Virgin Islands and Jersey. These companies own several properties including properties in Camden Market.
A Sagi spokesman said he welcomed the register. “Due to the global nature of his businesses, his wealth is managed by a number of companies following the advice of local advisors in each country in which he invests.”
He said that Sagi’s ownership interests “consisted only of UK tax resident landowning companies. Therefore all property will be taxed fully under UK law in a fully transparent manner.”
Overseas companies are also required to register with Companies House if they do not own property but have done so in the past or intend to do so in the future.
Chelsea FC’s new owner, Todd Boehly, has three entries on the register but none appear to own any UK property.
A spokesman for Boehly’s investment group Eldridge did not respond to requests for comment.