Glympton Park is a sprawling 2,000 acre estate with an 18th century manor house nestled in the green Oxfordshire countryside near Woodstock.
It was bought in 1992 for £ 8 million by Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud, the high-ranking Saudi king whose previous duties included ambassador to the United States. He is said to have spent £ 42 million on renovations, including a pheasant sprout and bulletproof glass in the driveway, to thwart possible assassins.
Despite the huge sums of money that have been amassed on the land pile, Glympton Estates Ltd, which manages the property and is owned by Bandar, requested £ 25,000 in tax-funded vacation benefits last December.
The company is just one of more than 750,000 companies to have taken advantage of a program that is expected to cost nearly £ 66 billion by the end of September.
Some are household names, including major employers on their knees due to the pandemic. The two largest claimants are the JD Wetherspoon and Mitchells & Butlers pub groups, each receiving between £ 25 million and £ 50 million.
Dozens of other companies have received between £ 1 million and £ 25 million, including British Airways, Premier Inn’s Whitbread, tour operator Tui and Primark. Under the vacation program, the government pays 80% of a worker’s wages.
While these well-known companies are some of the UK’s largest employers, many smaller businesses are buried in government claims.
The cross-reference of vacation dates with publicly available information from Companies House shows that some of their owners, like Bandar, may not be obvious candidates for government assistance.
The claimed amounts have been published in bands, starting at £ 0-10,000 and going up to £ 25-50 million. The value of the entitlements relates to December only. In practice the totals could be much higher.
License and petro states
Glympton Estates Ltd received up to £ 25,000 in December 2020. The company provides accounting services and manages the domestic workforce for Glympton Park. Companies House records indicate that the property was sold to the Deputy Prime Minister of Bahrain in March 2021.
Atheeb (UK) Ltd asked for £ 10,000. The company reportedly provides services to the Riyadh-based conglomerate Atheeb Holdings and to individuals related to its owner, US-born Prince Abdulaziz bin Ahmed bin Abdulaziz al-Saud.
A relative, Prince Salman bin Sultan bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud, owns 75 Eaton Place Services, which apparently manage a property in the prestigious Belgravia district of London through a company in the British Virgin Islands. The company asked for up to £ 10,000.
An entry in the vacation register for £ 10,000 only gives the name of HRH Prince Mohammed bin Saud bin Naif bin Abdulaziz al-Saud.
A spokesman for the Saudi embassy said the companies had made “legitimate claims” that were a private matter.
The Ritz Hotel, owned by the Emir of Qatar’s brother-in-law, was asking for up to £ 500,000. The Ritz said the staff had been on leave to prevent job losses and the owners had made “very substantial additional payments” to ensure wages were not cut.
The Ritz Hotel, owned by the Emir of Qatar’s brother-in-law, was asking for up to £ 500,000. Photo: Mark Thomas / Rex / Shutterstock
Harrods, owned by the Qatar Investment Authority, called for up to £ 2.5 million. State-controlled Qatar Airways benefited from £ 50,000 paid to their Edinburgh Park hotel.
Pal Zileri and Valentino England, luxury clothing company owned by the former emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, picked up as much as £ 35,000 between them.
Former Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber al-Thani is listed as a person with significant control over Qaya Ltd, who has the right to appoint and remove directors. Owned by a British Virgin Islands company, the company raised £ 10,000.
Requests for comments went unanswered.
The Dubai government owns UK Mission Enterprise over the British Virgin Islands. The company offers VIP customers a 24-hour, six-star concierge service that claims up to £ 100,000.
The office of the ruler of Dubai, Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, called for up to £ 55,000, including £ 10,000 each for the luxury service apartment business Cheval Collection and hotel company Jumeirah International (UK).
The Crown Prince, Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohamed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, owns Shamal Overseas Shoreditch Ltd, a hotel and lodging company that cost up to £ 10,000.
Billionaires and MultiMillionaires
Len Blavatnik is the fourth richest man in the UK with a net worth of £ 15.8 billion. His co-ownership, First Access Entertainment, a talent agency and media company, was asking for up to £ 10,000. He declined to comment.
Len Blavatnik, co-owner of First Access Entertainment, asked for up to £ 10,000. Photo: David M Benett // Getty Images for Warner Music
Gambling software billionaire Teddy Sagi, valued at £ 3.6 billion, owns London’s Camden Market. Three of his companies claimed up to £ 120,000 between them. A spokesman for Camden Market owner LabTech said it had waived or lowered rents for tenants, made space for soup kitchens and given free office space to the NHS.
Julian Dunkerton, founder-head of fashion brand Superdry, is worth £ 182 million. His hotel business, Lucky Onion, was asking for £ 150,000 while the Tavern, a pub in Cheltenham, was asking for £ 10,000. A spokesman said the vacation program “ran exactly as the government intended,” saving 221 jobs.
Construction company Ochil Developments asked for up to £ 25,000. It belongs to the family of one of Scotland’s richest men, Mahdi Al Tajir, who also owns the Highland Spring mineral water company.
Fayair, a luxury airport transfer company owned by former Harrods owner Mohamed Al Fayed, has fought for up to £ 25,000.
Evgeny Lebedev, who owns the Independent and Evening Standard newspapers, was named House of Lords last year. The Limehouse Grapes pub, which he co-owned with actor Sir Ian McKellen, was asking for up to £ 10,000.
Tax retirees, non-doms, and battles with the HMRC
Jim Ratcliffe, valued at £ 12 billion, was the UK’s richest man in 2018 but left the UK last year for the tax-free Monaco. His luxury hotel operations, Lime Wood and Home Grown Hotels, fetched £ 600,000 together, while his fashion company Belstaff took in £ 25,000.
Lord Ashcroft and his family are worth £ 1.2 billion. He was previously not a UK resident for tax reasons, although his current status is unclear. Companies House lists him as a person with significant control with an address in Belize for SUSD Asset Management and Shutdown Maintenance Services, each of which was claimed £ 10,000.
Guy Hands, the owner of Hand Picked Hotels who claimed up to £ 50,000. Photo: Bloomberg via Getty Images
Guy Hands, the Guernsey-based financier behind private equity group Terra Firma, owns Hand Picked Hotels, which have claimed up to £ 50,000. He once said he did not visit the UK for fear of being taxed there. Hands said, “Without government support, I would have had no choice but to close hand-picked hotels. I put £ 28m into the deal which has lost £ 18.5m since last March. The vacation program has helped protect the jobs of 700 people. “
Other billionaires who are not taxable in the UK include retail tycoon Philip Green, whose crumbling Arcadia empire claimed up to £ 2.5 million, and Sir Richard Branson, whose Virgin Atlantic claimed £ 5 million.
The British National Party may run out of council members but has asked for up to £ 10,000. A party spokesman, led by Adam Walker, said its employees should “not be discriminated against because some people may hold different political views than their employer”.
Very few other political parties have made claims, but they include the Brexit Party Ltd, owned by Nigel Farage, and the Socialist Party. Each claimed up to £ 10,000.
Football clubs, celebrities and more
Arconic Manufacturing (UK) is a subsidiary of the company that made the cladding for Grenfell Tower. It called for up to £ 500,000 which protected 380 jobs and was used as the government intended.
Four football clubs – Newcastle United, Leeds United, Sheffield United and Burnley – claimed up to £ 575,000 between them. Neither was ready to comment, but two highlighted financial difficulties due to lack of revenue from fans during the pandemic. The effect is believed to be particularly difficult to handle for newly promoted crews.
A multitude of celebrities have previously been reported to have been on leave from their personal businesses, including model Cara Delevingne, two former President Donald Trump’s golf courses, Tony and Cherie Blair, Jamie Oliver Group, and Samantha Cameron’s fashion brand Cefinn.