The furlough fatcats: They’re worth millions, but they want taxpayers to cover their staff wages during coronavirus lockdown. Justified? Or just a bit rich, asks ALISON BOSHOFF

  • Prince Charles has not asked for help from Government’s furlough scheme
  • Victoria Beckham has asked for £250,000 to keep 25 employees on until June
  • It pays 80 per cent of wages and nine million workers are expected to benefit 
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

Can it ever be right for a multi-millionaire to ask taxpayers to stump up for their staff’s salaries?

With Prince Charles not asking for help from the Government’s coronavirus furlough scheme — but Victoria Beckham among those taking it — it’s the question sparking furious debate.

Many are asking why the taxpayer should pick up a bill of up to £200,000 to keep 35 of Victoria’s employees on until the scheme ends in June, when her business has made losses year on year and she has a huge personal fortune which she could use?

Sir Philip Green, Lord Lloyd-Webber and Stella McCartney are all also using the scheme to pay their workers, as are the bosses of Selfridges, Primark and Peacocks.

Victoria Beckham has asked the taxpayer to pick up a bill of up to £200,000 to keep 35 of her employees on until the scheme ends in June. Pictured with her husband David and their friend Sir Elton John on holiday in the south of France 

Prince Charles, who has 197 staff at The Prince’s Foundation, has furloughed them all but is meeting the cost out of reserves at the charity. His annual wage bill is believed to be £4.5 million.

The Government’s scheme pays 80 per cent of wages up to £2,500 a month and nine million workers are expected to benefit.

It will cost the Exchequer a staggering £42 billion. Many small firms have no option — but is the scheme being exploited by wealthy individuals and profitable firms who could afford to keep going without it?

DESIGNER DIVA VICTORIA BECKHAM

WHO? The artist formerly known as Posh Spice launched her fashion line in 2008. With former footballer husband David and their four children — Brooklyn, 21, Romeo, 17, Cruz, 14 and Harper, eight — Victoria is at the forefront of ‘Brand Beckham’ and has built up a huge fortune through music, advertising and endorsements.

BUSINESS ISSUES? You bet. Figures filed last year indicate Victoria Beckham Limited has failed to turn a profit — for the fourth year running.

It has lost £35.5 million in 11 years. Losses have become 19 per cent worse than last year, and stand at a painful £12.3 million.

The artist formerly known as Posh Spice (pictured enjoying a bicycle ride) launched her fashion line in 2008

THE FURLOUGH: Victoria, 46, who was honoured with an OBE, is furloughing 25 employees and will be topping up the 80 per cent grant. She is not currently drawing a salary or dividend from the struggling business. A spokesman said: ‘Having carefully assessed all our options, we made the decision to furlough a proportion of staff on an enhanced package.’

THOSE ASSETS IN FULL: Victoria divides her time in Britain between a £31 million house in Holland Park and a £3 million barn conversion in the Cotswolds, from where her family have posted lockdown snaps from their hot tub and lavish kitchen which includes a pizza oven. The Beckhams, (pictured above with pal Elton John) have also just bought a £17 million penthouse in Miami where David has a football team.

Victoria divides her time in Britain between a £31 million house in Holland Park (pictured) and a £3 million barn conversion in the Cotswolds

BUSINESS BUCCANEER RICHARD BRANSON 

WHO? Bearded buccaneer Richard Branson, 69, built an empire from his music business, expanding into space exploration, air travel, hotels, cruise ships, wedding dresses, radio stations and broadband. His businesses are owned by a series of offshore trusts and companies.

BUSINESS ISSUES? The Virgin empire is a money-spinner, but recently the airline has made a loss. Dividends of £300 million were collected from Virgin Trains until it lost its licence in 2019. Airline Virgin Atlantic paid a dividend of £88 million in 2014. Branson has paid no personal income tax since moving to his private island, Necker in the British Virgin Islands, 14 years ago. He has 10,000 employees.

THE FURLOUGH: Some 8,000 workers are being furloughed and will be paid 80 per cent of their salaries for three months. The bigger picture, though, is that Branson is asking for a £500 million bailout to help Virgin Atlantic survive. He has promised to pump £250million into the group.

Bearded buccaneer Richard Branson, 69, built an empire from his music business, expanding into space exploration, air travel, hotels, cruise ships, wedding dresses, radio stations and broadband. Pictured setting a world record for most people riding a kitesurfer in 2014

It prompted Duncan Bannatyne to tweet: ‘I have had to borrow money to keep my company solvent!’

THOSE ASSETS IN FULL: Branson gets about on a Dassault Falcon private jet and is mostly found on Necker, the 74-acre tax haven he bought in 1978. He also homes in Holland Park, London, and in Verbier, Switzerland.

TELLY DRAGON DUNCAN BANNATYNE 

WHO? Former Dragon on Dragons’ Den, Duncan Bannatyne, OBE, left school at 15. He made his fortune in a nursing home business, which was eventually sold for £26 million. He now runs health clubs.

BUSINESS ISSUES? The Bannatyne Group has a turnover of £127.5 million and pre-tax profits of £14.6 million.

Former Dragon on Dragons’ Den, Duncan Bannatyne, OBE, left school at 15. Pictured on holiday in Dubai with his wife Nigora Whitehorn

THE FURLOUGH: Some 2,500 out of 3,000 staff have been put on furlough. The group will be topping up their salaries above the 80 per cent government assistance for April, but in an interview Bannatyne, 71, warned that the company would be unable to do this in May or June as they ‘simply do not have the money’. He thinks coronavirus will cost the group £30 million.

THOSE ASSETS IN FULL: Divorcing second wife Joanne was said to have cost him £345 million. He is now married to third wife Nigora Whitehorn (pictured, left, with him). They live in a villa in Portugal and in a mansion in Mayfair, complete with huge chandeliers, an underground swimming pool and gym which she often features in social media pictures.

Mr Bannatyne proudly shows off his new wife Nigora while on holiday in Turkey. They live in a villa in Portugal and in a mansion in Mayfair, complete with huge chandeliers, an underground swimming pool and gym

FASHION FAVOURITE STELLA McCARTNEY

WHO? The second daughter of Beatle Sir Paul and his late wife Linda, Stella McCartney OBE was raised in a modest farmhouse in Peasmarsh, Sussex, attending her local comprehensive, before launching her fashion line in 2001.

Famous friends include Amal Clooney, singer Taylor Swift and actresses Jodie Comer, Olivia Colman and Gwyneth Paltrow.

Last summer, she clinched a deal with luxury giants LVMH — which owns Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior and Veuve Clicquot. They now own part of her label while she remains its creative director and retains majority ownership.

Mum-of-four Stella McCartney lives in Belgravia, central London, from where she has been posting lockdown snaps. In one, she is seen surfing on a cushion down the stairs of her £30 million house

BUSINESS ISSUES? Restructuring has had an alarming effect on her bottom line and earlier this year she filed accounts which showed an £11 million loss, a steep fall from a £7.1 million profit the previous year. This was due to a colossal rise in administrative expenses, up 67 per cent to a staggering £48.6 million.

THE FURLOUGH: Stella, 48, is reportedly furloughing up to half of the 1,400 employees of her company worldwide and isn’t making up the difference for the staff beyond the 80 per cent pay from the Government. A spokesman did not return requests for comment.

THOSE ASSETS IN FULL: Mum-of-four Stella lives in Belgravia, central London, from where she has been posting lockdown snaps. In one, she is seen surfing on a cushion down the stairs of her £30 million house (above).

She also has a nine-bedroom Georgian farmhouse on 277 acres in Worcestershire and a property in The Hamptons in the U.S.

RETAIL TYCOON SIR PHILIP GREEN

WHO? Yacht-loving, party-throwing Sir Philip is the millionaire everyone loves to hate. He made his fortune in retail, starting with jeans, and his Arcadia empire includes Topshop, Topman, Dorothy Perkins, Evans and Miss Selfridge.

Notoriously, struggling BHS was sold for £1 to a former bankrupt. Sir Philip ended up paying £363 million to stop a hole in its pension fund. Equally notoriously, the owner of Taveta — Arcadia’s holding company — is his wife, Tina, who is based in tax haven Monaco.

Yacht-loving, party-throwing Sir Philip Green is the millionaire everyone loves to hate. Pictured arriving at Mykonos island for lunch

BUSINESS ISSUES?: Over the past decade, Sir Philip has seen his reported fortune dip from over £4 billion to just under £1 billion. Arcadia was struggling before the virus, closing 12 stores after a ‘tough’ Christmas. Top Shop and Top Man reported a loss of £500 million last year.

THE FURLOUGH: The Arcadia Group has furloughed 14,500 of its 16,000 employees. Senior staff have taken a pay cut of between 25 per cent and 50 per cent, and group chief executive Ian Grabiner has elected to receive no salary or benefits until the pandemic ends. Online operations continue at reduced capacity. Grabiner has said ‘the actions we have taken are essential’.

Sir Philip and daughter Chloe dancing on Mykonos Island, Greece, in 2015. Over the past decade, Sir Philip has seen his reported fortune dip from over £4 billion to just under £1 billion

THOSE ASSETS IN FULL: Sir Philip, 68, loves his £100 million yacht and spends two months every summer cruising around the Mediterranean with Lady Green and 40 staff. Home is a penthouse in Monaco, and he gets about in a £50 million Gulfstream G650ER jet and his own helicopter. During the week he lives in a five-star suite at The Dorchester hotel in London.

THEATRE KING LLOYD WEBBER 

WHO? The most commercially successful composer in history, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s hit musicals include Joseph And His Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita, Cats and The Phantom Of The Opera. He was knighted in 1992 and in 1997 became Baron Lloyd-Webber of Sydmonton.

BUSINESS ISSUES? Accounts filed by the LW Theatres Group Limited show in the year up to July 2018 it made £10.3 million profit and had net assets of £78.8 million.

The most commercially successful composer in history, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s hit musicals include Joseph And His Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and The Phantom Of The Opera. Pictured in 2011 in front of JW Waterhouse’s The Lady Of Chalot

THE FURLOUGH: LW Theatres has committed to paying all 400 of its staff and promises it will make no redundancies. But it is furloughing a small number of its front-of-house team. Rebecca Kane Burton, the chief executive, said: ‘LW Theatres, which re-invests all profits back into our theatres, has furloughed staff who, in the current situation, are unable to work (e.g. bar or front-of-house). The remainder continue to work from home.’

Lloyd Webber, 72, told staff: ‘We have all been affected in a multitude of ways by the horrific and invisible virus, which has a stranglehold on the world right now.’

THOSE ASSETS IN FULL: Lloyd Webber lives with third wife Madeleine at Sydmonton Court, on a 4,000-acre estate in Hampshire. He sold much of his wine collection in 2011, raising £3.5 million — which he spent on Pre-Raphaelite art. 

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