Person of the week
The Sunak-Murthy couple are amazingly different – but above all they are rich
By Wolfram Weimer
10/27/2022, 11:51 am (Updated)
With the new Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, a Hindu occupies Downing Street for the first time, a person of color for the first time, a man with Indian roots for the first time. But even more extraordinary is the First Lady and her fortune. Together they were richer than King Charles III.
Britain’s new Prime Minister is an interesting choice – he embodies many firsts for Britain. At 42, Rishi Sunak is not only the youngest Prime Minister in 240 years. England’s richest man, first non-white prime minister and first Hindu to hold office. As the “Guardian” writes, the British media sees it as “a milestone in the development of Great Britain as a multicultural and multi-religious society.”
Think tanks such as Migrant Associations and British Futures agree this is “an historic moment”. It says: “It shows that any office in Britain can be open to people of all religions and ethnic backgrounds. It will fill many British Asians with pride – including many who do not share Rishi Sunak’s conservative ideals.”
Sunak is a follower of Hinduism. He has been named the next Prime Minister of the UK on Diwali, the festival of lights celebrated by millions of Hindus, Sikhs and Jains around the world. The symbolism couldn’t be better for him as the Festival of Lights celebrates new beginnings, the triumph of good over evil and light over darkness.
Two years ago, when Sunak was finance minister, he lit candles at the door of 11 Downing Street to mark Diwali. “To be able to do that on the steps of Downing Street was one of my proudest moments in the work I’ve done in the last two years,” he told The Times. This would be a novelty for the kingdom, which is deeply rooted in Christian tradition, as after the parliamentary elections in 2017, Sunak took an oath in Parliament on his holy Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad Gita.
The new first lady is a billionaire
Sunak was born in Southampton in 1980 to Ballyglad Indian immigrants. His father Yashvir is from Kenya and mother Usha is from Tanzania. Both families hail from the Indian Punjab and migrated to England from East Africa in the 1960s. Sunak’s father worked as a family doctor and his mother as a pharmacist. Sunak distinguished himself at school and university as a lightning-quick, ambitious high-flyer. The educational path went through the best addresses like Winchester College, Oxford, Stanford etc.
Sunak was already involved in the student investment club at university and made his first contacts in London’s financial world. In 2001 he joined investment bank Goldman Sachs as an analyst and in 2004 moved to hedge fund TCI. Sunak is said to have become a millionaire during his time as a hedge fund manager, but it was his wife who really made him rich. In 2009, he married Akshata Murthy, daughter of one of India’s richest men. In its “rich list”, “Times” estimates the combined fortune of the two at 850 million euros.
Actually Akshata Murthy is even richer. Britain’s new first lady is actually a billionaire and has been named heir to one of Asia’s biggest fortunes, along with her brother Rohan Murthy. The British media has been reporting for months that Murthy is richer than Queen Elizabeth II.
Akshata Murthy grew up in Mumbai, India, the daughter of tech billionaire Narayana Murthy, one of Asia’s most successful entrepreneurs. “Time” magazine calls the new British prime minister’s father-in-law the “father of the Indian IT industry”, while “Weekly” describes him as “Asia’s Steve Jobs”. His software and IT group “Infosys” currently has a market capitalization of 78 billion euros and employs 345,000 people. Over 10,000 new employees have joined the workforce in the last three months alone. Infosys is one of the fastest growing IT services companies in the world.
Investments fuel political debate
Sent to America by her father, Akshata Murthy did her Masters at Stanford University, where she met Rishi Sunak. The couple married in India in 2009 and moved to the UK four years later, shortly before Sunak first became an MP. Until recently Akshata Murthy did not pay tax in the UK as she was considered non-resident for UK tax purposes. Their dividend income alone runs into crores a year. This provocative situation has become a political issue for Sunak, with Murthy recently bowing to mounting public pressure and announcing that he would voluntarily pay British taxes in the future.
The new prime minister and his wife live in opulent properties, from a four-storey inner-city mansion in Kensington to a sprawling family mansion on Old Brompton Road, a Georgian country house in Yorkshire and a penthouse overlooking the beach where Baywatch once stood in California. Filmed.
The investment behavior of Akshata Murthy and her private investment firm “Catamaran Ventures UK” has a political dimension. For example, Murthy’s firm was an early backer of dara5, a private investment community for “the next generation of global leaders” co-founded by the Qatari dynasty in 2019. Catamaran Ventures has bought a stake in British luxury furniture market The New Craftsmen, whose shareholders include Rupert Murdoch’s eldest daughter Prudence and in turn Qatari investors.
But that’s not all: “Catamaran Ventures” has more than a billion euros in investments ranging from e-sports investments to insurance and Elon Musk’s space exploration technologies corporation. Henceforth, every investment will be politically scrutinized as the political and financial power is now unusually united with Akshada Murthy and Rishi Sunak. In any case, they already have their nickname in London: the Maharajahs of Downing Street.
(This article was first published on Tuesday, October 25, 2022.)
“Social media maven. Amateur food buff. Pop culture trailblazer. Tv ninja.”