Ian and Richard Livingstone: the brothers who built a $7.2bn fortune

As 20-somethings, Ian and Richard Livingstone began snapping up cheap London property. Their knack for spotting promising but underrated assets has served them well ever since.

Over the past 30 years, brothers Ian and Richard Livingstone have quietly amassed a multibillion-pound property portfolio spanning some of the finest hotels in the world. “But their shrewdest bet by far is a different kind of investment,” says The Daily Telegraph. The brothers’ stake in Evolution Gaming – a Swedish-based online gambling business that has surged during the pandemic – has delivered 5,000% returns since they became shareholders, jumping 200% in the last year alone. The brothers’ 8.6% stake is now worth almost $3bn, and Evolution has proved a crucial source of liquidity while many of the hotels in their London and Regional property empire have been closed. 

This is the tech niche to be in

Plenty of the world’s richest have diversified into tech in the pandemic, says Bloomberg. But the Livingstones spotted Stockholm-listed Evolution’s potential much earlier. Since the brothers provided early seed funding, the fifteen-year-old company has grown to become the unseen presence behind live casino games run by some 300 operators globally, including Betfair and William Hill. And the real bonanza is still to come. Having recently signed partnership deals with Caesars Entertainment and Wynn Resorts, Evolution is poised to clean up from the liberalisation of the huge US market. As analyst Martin Arnell of DNB Markets observes: “within gambling globally, this is the niche to be in right now”. 

Raised in Ealing, west London – the sons of a dentist – and educated at St Paul’s School, the brothers, now in their mid-50s, have always displayed a flair for snapping up promising assets when underrated by others. The basis of their combined $7.2bn fortune is London West End property, snapped up in the recession of the early 1990s when they were still in their 20s, remarkable given that their training (Ian, pictured, as an optometrist; Richard a chartered surveyor) suggested other life trajectories. 

The funding of the Livingstones’ early investments is “shrouded in mystery”, said the London Evening Standard in 2012. But their ascent began in 1989 when Ian opened his first opticians shop, Optika, in Hampstead. Within three years the business was strong enough to buy the upmarket David Clulow chain out of receivership and by 1996 there were 40 outlets valued at £20m. Richard’s contribution, according to a friend, was a nose for property. “They cobbled together a bit of money somehow and started buying and selling flats. Gradually lots of small deals got bigger and bigger.” 

A genius for persuasion

Between 1991 and 1994, the youthful wheeler-dealers set up 18 companies to buy commercial properties in central London. Richard’s “genius” appears to have been “his power to persuade lenders” – particularly Jacob Rothschild’s Dawnay Day – “to advance tens of millions to a young man with only the shortest of track records”. Key to this was the brothers’ reputation for decency. “They’re lovely people, really clever but really quite modest,” says one associate. 

Over the years, the brothers invested in everything from fitness clubs to nursing homes and London cinemas. But they found their niche in luxury hotels – most famously Cliveden, the Grade I-listed Buckinghamshire pile made infamous by the 1960s Profumo scandal. Modesty is everything to the Livingstones. But, as Ian’s wife Natalie once observed, there’s a certain satisfaction that a house once run by the notoriously antisemitic Nancy Astor is now in the hands of “a self-made Jewish family”.  

Recommended

The Federal Reserve wants markets to fall – here’s what that means for investors
Stockmarkets

The Federal Reserve wants markets to fall – here’s what that means for investors

The Federal Reserve’s primary mandate is to keep inflation down, and lower asset prices help with that. So, asks Dominic Frisby – just how low will st…
25 May 2022
Flexible working: don't rush your staff back the office
Small business

Flexible working: don't rush your staff back the office

The government is urging people to get back to the office. But there are good reasons for many small businesses to embrace flexible working.
25 May 2022
Let’s adjust to living with Covid and get Britain back to work
UK Economy

Let’s adjust to living with Covid and get Britain back to work

The Covid-19 era is over, leaving a stagnant and lethargic workforce in its wake. It’s time to wake up, says Matthew Lynn.
25 May 2022
Should you be worried about energy windfall tax proposals?
Energy

Should you be worried about energy windfall tax proposals?

Calls have been growing for a windfall tax on UK oil and gas producers. It's a popular idea, but is it a good one? And what does it mean for investors…
24 May 2022

Most Popular

Everything is collapsing at once – here’s what to do about it
Investment strategy

Everything is collapsing at once – here’s what to do about it

Equity and bond markets are crashing, while inflation destroys the value of cash. Merryn Somerset Webb looks at where investors can turn to protect th…
23 May 2022
Imperial Brands has an 8.3% yield – but what’s the catch?
Share tips

Imperial Brands has an 8.3% yield – but what’s the catch?

Tobacco company Imperial Brands boasts an impressive dividend yield, and the shares look cheap. But investors should beware, says Rupert Hargreaves. H…
20 May 2022
Three high-quality FTSE 100 shares going cheap
Share tips

Three high-quality FTSE 100 shares going cheap

As stockmarkets continue to fall, bargains are starting to appear, says Rupert Hargreaves. Here, he picks three high-quality FTSE 100 shares that are …
23 May 2022