A bull market for luxury goods and rising demand for construction equipment and laboratory services has minted three new European billionaires who hold stakes in family-controlled businesses.
The fortunes of Marina Giori-Swarovski, an heiress to the Swarovski crystal fortune; Mark Bamford, the youngest son of the founder of U.K. backhoe maker JCB Service; and Gilles Martin, who controls French food and drug tester Eurofins Scientific, have each surpassed $1 billion this year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. None have been cited individually as billionaires on an international wealth ranking.
“Figures suggest family businesses in Europe make up more than 60 percent of firms and a third of employment levels,” Roger Pedder, president of industry lobbying group European Family Businesses, said by phone. “They’re the largest and least reported element of the European economy.”
More than 20 billionaires have been identified within European families in the past 12 months, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, including nine from Germany’s Quandt and Reimann families, two from Italy’s Prada family, seven from the Hoffmann and Oeri families of Switzerland, and three from Denmark’s Kirk Kristiansen family, which owns Lego.
Their emergence comes amid a broader recovery in the European economy. The Stoxx Europe 600 Index is up 10.3 percent in 2013, and the euro has gained 6 percent, the biggest increase this year among the 10 developed-nation countries tracked by Bloomberg Correlation-Weighted Indexes. The dollar has risen 3.2 percent and the yen dropped 9.9 percent.
Family companies represented by Brussels-based European Family Businesses have more than a trillion euros in revenue and make up 9 percent of the European Union’s gross domestic product, according to its website.
The companies are often controlled through holding entities in offshore financial jurisdictions such as Bermuda and Luxembourg. Many are providing greater transparency into their operations as a way of seeking goodwill from the financial community and governments, according to Goran Grosskopf, a Swedish economist who has advised a number of family dynasties in Europe. Such businesses probably won’t publicly disclose ownership details, he said.
“Families prefer to keep this kind information private because of competition, taxation and security,” Grosskopf said. “I hope they will continue to do so. The entrepreneurship these businesses provide are critical to the development of the economy.”