Belfast-born billionaire Stephen Fitzpatrick named as north's richest person

The Sunday TImes 2023 Rich List estimates Stephen Fitzpatrick is worth just over £2 billion.
The Sunday TImes 2023 Rich List estimates Stephen Fitzpatrick is worth just over £2 billion.

BELFAST-born businessman Stephen Fitzpatrick saw his personal wealth increase by £872 million, according to the Sunday Times Rich List.

The annual list compiled by the newspaper has identifed the 45-year-old billionaire as the north’s richest person.

A past pupil of Our Lady and St Patrick’s College in east Belfast, he built the larger part of his fortune from OVO Energy, the firm he founded with his wife Sophy in 2009.

He is also the former owner of the Manor Racing formula one team and the founder of Vertical Aerospace, which builds electric vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) powered aircraft.

The 2023 rich list from the Sunday Times estimates his wealth grew by almost £900m in the past year to £2.212 billion, more than double that of Lady Ballyedmond and the Haughey family, who were named as second on the Northern Ireland rich list, with an estimated worth of £1.05bn.

The Haugheys, who own pharma giant Norbrook, saw their wealth fall £197m last year, according to the Sunday Times. Earlier this month the Newry company announced plans to cut 180 jobs.

Co Louth businessman Martin Naughton, who set up Glen Dimplex in Newry in 1973, and a regular fixture on Irish rich lists, saw his wealth climb £50m to £850m in 2023.

Two of the north’s biggest family-owned businesses also made their first appearance on the Sunday Times rich list.

The Barnett family, who own commodities giant W&R Barnett, had an estimated worth of £525m. The company, which is headed by William Barnett, recently posted a record pre-tax profit of £69m.

Michael Loughran and family, who own the Co Tyrone fuel group LCC, also appeared on the list for the first time with an estimated wealth of £500m.

Rory McIlroy was named by the Sunday Times as the UK’s richest sportsperson under the age of 35, with an estimated wealth of £200m

Rich List 2023: Who are the wealthiest people in the UK?

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Two years ago, the newspaper’s rich list put Stephen Fitzpatrick’s worth at around £675m, meaning his wealth has tripled in two years.

Mr Fitzpatrick left Northern Ireland to study at the University of Edinburgh. He stayed in Scotland to set up property advertisement business ‘The Rental Guide’ in 2001.

He later relocated to London to pursue a career as a City trader. In 2009 he founded Ovo with £350,000 of savings.

By 2016 OVO had 685,000 customers and a staff of 1,000.

In recent years, the company has courted controversy. OVO was fined £8.9 million in 2020 for overcharging customers since 2015 and last year, Mr Fitzpatrick and his company faced scrutiny over its profits amidst soaring energy bills.

The Belfast native appeared on ITV’s Good Morning Britain last September, where Martin Lewis asked for his response to people who question whether he is “a fat cat making the profits, ripping people off.”

In his response Mr Fitzpatrick said: “There are a lot of people making money in energy right now.

“There are a lot of companies that are making extraordinarily large profits - not necessarily by doing anything wrong, but they are making a lot of money.

“I set up an energy retail business, OVO Energy, 13 years ago. We are only in retail, we only work on behalf of customers.

“We don’t own any natural gas, we don’t own any power lines. We have no invested interests, except for what is good for customers.

“Ofgem set our prices. We don’t even set the price any more, because the price cap is the cheapest way to buy energy, so we are only advocating and working on behalf of customers.”