No. 10 Downing Street gets its first billionaire residents

Britain’s new Prime Minister Rishi Sunak waves in front of Number 10 Downing Street, in London, Britain, October 25, 2022. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

Rishi Sunak’s elevation to the top of U.K. politics brings a number of firsts. He’s the youngest prime minister in more than two centuries; the first Hindu to hold the office; and he will — in nominal terms — be Britain’s wealthiest prime minister.

His spouse Akshata Murty is the reason he’s part of the first billionaire family atop British politics, with investments spanning everything from a luxury furniture marketplace to an outfitter for students of Eton College.

Akshata Murty, the wife of Prime Minister Sunak, in London on Aug. 31, 2022. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Hollie Adams.

Murty, 42, who was born in India and is still an Indian citizen, has a net worth of about $1 billion thanks largely to her stake in Infosys Ltd., the software giant founded by her father, according to an estimate by the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

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Murty’s net worth is larger than the roughly $400 million fortune of the late Queen Elizabeth II. Her son, King Charles III, formally appointed Sunak as prime minister on Tuesday.

The Bangalore-based company’s shares have surged more than 1,500% since Murty was first publicly disclosed as a shareholder in 2001, though they have struggled this year in the face of a broad tech selloff as policymakers worldwide move to curb rising inflation.

Murty didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. Her father, Infosys founder Narayana Murthy, congratulated Sunak in an emailed statement.

“We are proud of him and we wish him success,” Murthy said. “We are confident he will do his best for the people of the United Kingdom.”

FILE PHOTO: Rishi Sunak, his wife Akshata Murty and his daughters Anoushka and Krishna attend a Conservative Party leadership campaign event in Grantham, Britain, July 23, 2022. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls/File Photo

The material blessings of his in-laws have proven a political headache at times.

The revelation in April that Murty enjoyed “non-domiciled” tax status in the U.K., meaning she paid no local taxes on overseas income, made her wealth a contentious topic just as a cost-of-living crisis began to bite across Britain. The furore saw Sunak’s approval ratings plunge and prompted her to commit to paying U.K. taxes on her global income.

Their wealth is likely to remain in the spotlight. Sunak is taking charge with the U.K. facing what he described as “profound economic challenge,” with many worrying about how to pay for heating or even groceries. That could make him an easy target for opposition lawmakers, who have also seized on the fact Sunak spent the bulk of his private sector days working for hedge funds, including one of the financial industry’s most prominent activist investors.

Murty has links to some of the world’s richest families through her investment firm, Catamaran Ventures U.K. She was an early backer of dara5, a private investment community for “the next generation of global leaders,” co-founded in 2019 by a member of Qatar’s ruling dynasty, the Al-Thani family.

Catamaran has also acquired a stake in luxury British furniture marketplace the New Craftsmen, whose shareholders include Rupert Murdoch’s oldest daughter, Prudence, and the Al Tajir family, the Emirati owners of the Park Tower hotel in London’s Knightsbridge district.

Murty has been directly involved in some of her U.K. investments. She became a director in 2017 of New & Lingwood, an outfitter for students of England’s prestigious Eton College — former Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s alma mater — which charges tuition fees of about £45,000 a year. She stepped down from the role in February.

Catamaran Ventures is the name of Murty and her family’s main investment entity, based in Bangalore, which employs about 15 staff in India overseeing holdings worth more than $1 billion spanning e-sports, insurance and Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp.

Murty and Sunak met while studying for MBAs at Stanford University in mid-2000s. Sunak has said that he took certain classes just to be able to sit next to Akshata. The two married in the summer of 2009 in a wedding in Bangalore attended by thousands. They still own a property in California, a penthouse overlooking the ocean.

Sunak’s elevation is drawing plenty of attention in India. After the news broke, a huge swarm of TV cameramen and reporters thronged the Murthys’ home in Bangalore and Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted his congratulations.

Sunak may get inspiration from his father-in-law’s approach to business.

In private, Sunak has said many times that he tries to live by his father-in-law’s favored one-liner while building Infosys: “In god we trust, everybody else brings data to the table.”

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