Hugh Grosvenor: Britain’s most eligible aristocrat

At just 25 years of ago, Hugh Grosvenor has become the custodian of a £9bn fortune. Time will tell how he bears up to the challenge.


Hugh Grosvenor, seventh Duke of Westminster

Not long ago, Hugh Grosvenor's main professional concern was his job as an account manager at Bio-bean a clean technology firm specialising in recycling waste coffee grounds, says The Sunday Times. Following the death of his father last week, this "unassuming 25-year-old" has now become the seventh Duke of Westminster: custodian of a £9bn fortune which includes 300 acres in Mayfair and Belgravia, and huge estates across the British Isles.

He has also inherited a media storm. Within hours of his father's death, Grosvenor was at the centre of one row about male primogeniture in the British nobility (he has inherited over the heads of older sisters Tamara and Edwina); and another about tax dodging.

Educated at a state primary close to the ancestral seat at Eaton Hall in Cheshire, and then at the low-key Ellesmere College in Shropshire, he went on to study countryside management at Newcastle University. "A quiet figure" who collects wine, "the young Duke has rarely bothered the gossip columns", says The Daily Telegraph.

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When he threw a £5m 21st birthday bash treating 800 guests, including Prince Harry, to performances by comedian Michael McIntyre and the hip-hop duo Rizzle Kicks the paper with the scoop was the Chester Chronicle. As Britain's most "eligible aristo", much in demand "from aspiring wives and auditioning mothers-in-law", his life "will not be so quiet now".

Asked for his advice to would-be entrepreneurs in 2004, Gerald, the sixth Duke, quipped: "Make sure they have an ancestor who was a very close friend of William the Conqueror." That relationship secured the Grosvenors big estates, says the FT. But the fount of their modern fortune dates back a mere 300 years to the union between Sir Thomas Grosvenor and heiress Mary Davies, who brought with her 500 acres of swampy, undeveloped land west of London.

The modern Grosvenor Group runs £13.1bn of assets (including those run for third parties). More than half the property portfolio is held abroad. The late Duke left the company's daily running to others but "many in the industry credit him with the professionalisation of the group" and its social conscience. In 1990, he took Westminster City Council to court to ensure a group of homes on Grosvenor land would remain rented as social housing.

The late Duke who grew up in Ulster believing he was destined to become a beef farmer before his father inherited the title was "uncomfortable with his inheritance", says The Guardian. "I would rather not have been born wealthy, but I can't give it up," he once observed. "I can't sell. It doesn't belong to me I'm only a flicker in the process of time and history."

Speaking of his then infant son in 1993, he added: "He's been born with the longest spoon anyone can have, but he can't go through life sucking on it. He has to put back what he has been given." It will be interesting to see how the new duke bears up to the challenge.