Thursday, 17 October 2013
Britain’s best-known entrepreneur, head of the Virgin Group of companies,defended the decision to make his permanent home on the islandafter suggestions that he had declared himself a non-resident to gain considerable tax benefits.
Reports that he had sold his property interests, including his Oxfordshire estate and London home to sever links with Britain thrust Sir Richard into an unwelcome and unfamiliar limelight and prompted a blog from his island retreat.
In the blog, Sir Richard said: “I have not left Britain for tax reasons but for my love of the beautiful British Virgin Islands and in particular Necker Island which I bought when I was 29 years old, 34 years ago as an uninhabited island on the edges of the BVI. Over that time we have built our home there, a place where my family and I are able to truly relax.
“Seven years ago we decided to move permanently to Necker as we feel it gives me and my wife Joan the best chance to live another productive few decades. We can also look after our health (Joan is approaching 70 and I’m not far behind).
"I still work day and night now focusing on not for profit venturers but on Necker I can also look after my health.
“I spent 40 years working day and night in Great Britain building companies and creating competition and choice for consumers across a whole range of industries. The companies we created from scratch have created tens of thousands of jobs and paid hundred of millions in tax (and will continue to do so).
“Now in my 60s I’m proud of what we’ve achieved and contributed and now spend the vast majority of my time building not for profit ventures, raising awareness around important issues and earning money for charity. I have been very fortunate to accumulate so much wealth in my career, more than I need in my lifetime and would not live somewhere I don’t want to do for tax reasons.”
Sir Richard discussed the blog with senior Virgin associates, conscious that he could be damaged by the tax exile claims at a time when the issue has become politically sensitive. They estimate that his not for profit ventures and other fund raising activities raise more than £10m a year for good causes ranging from climate change to the global drugs problem.
One senior aide said: “He probably spends more time flying around the world than he does on Necker.”
Sir Richard who takes pride in dressing himself in the Union Jack to display his ‘Britishness’ has saved millions of pounds in tax from his earnings in Virgin Group by surrendering his residency status and accepting limitations on visits to the UK. He will continue to pay tax on any UK income.
He has been quoted as saying “I don’t think people should be leaving the UK because of our tax system” – though Virgin executives say he was misquoted. Ten years ago he wrote to newspaper saying “I live in England and choose to pay my not inconsiderable taxes here.”
Sir Richard, regarded as a role model for budding entrepreneurs, has surrendered executive control of the myriad of Virgin companies but remains chairman. He is estimated to be worth £3.4bn.
He made his entry into the world of business with a magazine called Student at the age of 16 but he found selling records in the crypt of a church and undercutting High Street prices more profitable.
The Virgin name has given birth to more than 400 companies from airlines to trains, from cable to broadband, from comics to animation that have embraced failure as well as success and controversy.
He has rebuilt his home on Necker after lightning started a fire that burned for three days. The actress Kate Winslet helped rescue Sir Richard’s mother.
Posted by Timothy Belmont at 08:51