Hugh Grosvenor became the 7th Duke of Westminster last August. The 26-year-old is well equipped to take the reins of the property empire developed by his father, Gerald, who died aged 64. The duke studied agriculture at Newcastle University and later worked in estate management. His 21st birthday party reportedly cost £5m and was attended by Prince Harry, with entertainment provided by the comedian Michael McIntyre and Rizzle Kicks, a hip-hop duo unlikely to appeal to all aristocrats.
Urbane and well-connected, Westminster is godfather to Prince William’s son George. His position at the top of the eligible bachelor's list has recently become precarious, having been photographed with his girlfriend in March. He started his education at Eccleston primary school near Chester before attending Mostyn House, a private day school in Cheshire, then Ellesmere College in Shropshire. The duke grew up at the family seat, Eaton Hall, set in 10,000 acres in Cheshire. However, the jewel in the family’s vast property portfolio is the 23,500-acre Abbeystead Estate in Lancashire, bought by his father in 1980. It is one of the UK’s premier sporting estates.
The main family company, the Grosvenor Group, is behind the successful Liverpool ONE shopping centre. Developed at a cost of £920m, it had more than 28m visitors in 2015. The group’s main engine of prosperity is its 300 acres in Mayfair, London. The late duke stood down as chairman of the Grosvenor board in 2007 after 33 years. When unveiling the 2015 figures, showing profits down almost £155m to a still respectable £527m, chief executive Mark Preston warned of “leaner times” ahead as property values reached peak levels. The group has property worth about £6.7bn and a £5.6bn development pipeline.
On top of this the family’s private assets and estates include nearly 165,000 acres of rural land, a dairy farm, the Chester Grosvenor hotel and the UK’s largest bull stud operation. The total asset wealth held by the family trusts is about £9.48bn, but adding in a £38.9m dividend paid out in 2015 takes Westminster and his family to £9.52bn. With much of that wealth held in trust, inheritance tax will not be a problem, although the trusts still pay capital gains and other taxes.
The cool young Duke of Westminster