Dyson among British entrepreneurs who own UK property via overseas companies

James Dyson and Tina Green, wife of Philip Green, among British business figures on register of overseas entities

Billionaires and business figures including James Dyson and Tina Green own UK property via overseas companies, according to a new register aimed at improving transparency.

The tycoons feature on a list that a Guardian investigation revealed last week includes the racing driver Lewis Hamilton, the Chinese government, a string of Gulf royals and at least 20 donors to the Tory party.

The declarations are made on the UK government’s new register of overseas entities. Holding property through offshore companies is legal. All those named as beneficial owners on the register have complied with their legal obligations to declare the holdings.

But the register shines a light on how billions of pounds of mostly London property is owned via jurisdictions such as the British Virgin Islands (BVI) and the Channel Islands. The Guardian believes there is a public interest in reporting on the business interests and property ownership structures of wealthy and influential people.

Dyson is named on the register as the beneficial owner of Weybourne Holdings Pte, a Singapore-based multinational that also houses the Dyson appliances company, the family office set up to manage his personal wealth, and an array of UK commercial property. Our analysis suggests Weybourne owns 31 UK properties, which Land Registry records indicate are worth at least £287m.

Dyson moved the headquarters of his home appliances business to the city state of Singapore in 2019, although research and development operations remain in the UK.

Britain’s second richest person, Dyson drew criticism when he relocated company headquarters, having previously touted Brexit as a great opportunity for UK entrepreneurs. He has said the decision to move was motivated by access to supply chains and customers in Asia.

James Dyson
Sir James Dyson, Britain’s second richest person, is the registered owner of a Singapore company that appears to own 31 UK properties. Photograph: Christophe Archambault/AFP/Getty Images

Assets owned by Weybourne Holdings include office blocks in the London districts of Mayfair and Camden, a £43m strip of land on the Greenwich peninsula, as well as sites in York and Oxfordshire.

Most were owned by UK-based Weybourne Group until 2019, the year Dyson moved its headquarters to Singapore, when they were transferred to Weybourne Holdings Pte. Some were bought after the company moved overseas, Land Registry records suggest.

There is no suggestion that Dyson has gained any tax advantage by holding the properties via Singapore.

A spokesperson for Dyson said there was no tax advantage gained by owning the properties through Weybourne Holdings Pte, adding that some of the properties were occupied by entities within the Dyson group.

Weybourne’s ownership of the properties was a matter of public record and reflected investment in the UK, they added.

Tina and Philip Green
Tina Green, pictured here with husband, Philip Green, owns luxury property in Mayfair via entities incorporated in the British Virgin Islands. Photograph: Richard Young/Rex/Shutterstock

Lady Green, the wife of Philip Green, the retail tycoon who experienced a dramatic fall from grace as his retail empire fell apart, also appears on the register of overseas entities.

Her entries on the register are in line with documents from the Pandora Papers leak of offshore data, which showed that she launched a property buying spree as the BHS retail empire headed for collapse.

In June 2015 she bought a Mayfair flat for £4.95m using an offshore firm via Amberley Limited, incorporated in the British Virgin Islands. Green is identified as the owner of Amberley, as well as BVI-based Hulverstone Investments, which paid £15m for a luxury triplex apartment in Mayfair in March 2016. She also acquired a £10.6m Belgravia mansion, via BVI-based Mottistone Holdings.

Lawyers for Green said she had not been resident or domiciled in the UK for more than 23 years and that the ownership arrangements were lawful and legitimate. They added that her property investments were entirely separate to Philip Green’s business interests, including BHS.

Camden Market
The owner of Camden Market, Teddy Sagi, owns 27 companies incorporated in Jersey and the British Virgin Islands. Photograph: Alamy

The owner of Camden Market, Teddy Sagi, is named as the owner of 27 companies listed on the register, incorporated in the BVIs and Jersey. Those companies own multiple properties including real estate in Camden Market.

A spokesperson for Sagi said he welcomed the register. “As a result of the global nature of his businesses his assets are handled by a range of companies in accordance with the advice provided by local consultants in each country, he invests in.”

He said Sagi’s property interests were “comprised only of UK tax resident property-owning entities. Therefore, all properties are fully taxed in accordance with UK law in an entirely transparent manner.”

The UK government’s new register of overseas entities was created to improve transparency around British property ownership and help the authorities ensure the right amount of tax is paid. Holding property through offshore companies is legal. Owners of property through offshore companies may do so for many reasons, from tax benefits to privacy or liking the stability or simplicity of a certain offshore tax regime. In the words of the government, offshore taxation is “complex”.

But ministers have concluded transparency around foreign ownership of UK property is an important step in improving the operation of the tax system. “Whilst the vast majority of people and businesses pay the right amount of tax, mistakes are made,” the government said in its explanation of why the register was being introduced. The register of overseas entities appears to be a big step forward in transparency, with thousands of owners, including the ones reported on by the Guardian, coming forward to declare their properties. All those named as beneficial owners on the register have complied with their legal obligations to declare their holdings. About a quarter of the companies making declarations so far still do not reveal their ownership publicly, because trusts are only required to give information on their beneficiaries to the tax authorities.

The Guardian has previously reported on offshore ownership of companies via leaks such as the Paradise papers and the Pandora papers, leading to governments including the UK government applying greater scrutiny to international tax affairs and offshore secrecy. The Guardian believes shining a light on the property in the UK held through foreign and offshore firms by rich, politically connected and influential people enhances that process of transparency and allows readers to better understand the power structures that affect their daily lives.

Overseas entities must also register with Companies House if they do not own property but have done in the past or intend to 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 spokesperson for Boehly’s investment group Eldridge did not return requests for comment.

• This article was amended on 2 February 2023. We regret that an earlier version attributed a statement from Dyson to “lawyers”; it was in fact from a press spokesperson. It also said James Dyson was criticised when he “relocated his companies” to Singapore; to clarify, it was the headquarters that moved there, and Dyson has continued to invest in its two UK technology campuses. Dyson has asked us to further emphasise that Weybourne Holding Pte’s property holdings are entirely legitimate, that its ownership of the properties in question was already a matter of public record, and that there is “no tax benefit whatsoever” from the property structures reported.


Rob Davies

The GuardianTramp

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