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The 400 Wealthiest People in Britain
By Philip Beresford and the Sunday Times of London
St. Martin's Press
336 pages, $19.95

TALK ABOUT money? Never! Well, hardly ever.
That's why it took more than 10 years for Philip Beresford, a writer at the Sunday Times of London, to compile enough information to classify the 400 billionaires, super-rich, very rich and millionaires among the British.

It used to be that talking about one's wealth was just not done.

Beresford's handsome cloth-cover volume follows the "Who's Who" format, rather than using lists as Forbes and Fortune magazines do.

The book not only tells who is worth what in each entry, but gives some business history and information on where family members live and how they live. Most are accompanied by photographs of the principal money producers or inheritors in each group.

Anglophiles will have a wonderful time peering into the lives of rock stars, theater people, media moguls, brewers, hoteliers, automobile dealers, real estate developers and pornography publishers; just your average mixed bag of the filthy rich, but in this case with a little upper crust because, after all, they are British.

Before the Iraq-Kuwait crisis turned the financial world around, newspaper wire service stories reported that 1.8395 British pounds was equal to one U.S. dollar. All figures in the book are in pounds, so some estimating is necessary.

For starters, the queen's worth is estimated at 6.7 billion pounds, which makes her not only the richest woman in Britain but also in the world. In the same category of billionaires are the Duke of Westminster; industrialists Gad and Hans Rausing, who came from Sweden; Associated British Foods Chairman Garfield Weston; the Moores family, which operates pools (betting, not swimming) as the largest private company in Britain, and our own oil-rich John Paul Getty II.

Greek ship owner George Livanos, with 930 million pounds, heads the super-rich group, which includes musician Paul McCartney, a smattering of industrialists, land owners, financiers, a furniture manufacturer, retailers of various kinds, and Stephen Rubin, who makes Reeboks.

In the very rich group, rock star Mick Jagger is the most recognizable. This dropout from the London School of Economics is said to be worth 75 million pounds.

Some of those in the millionaires category are the Princess of Wales' father, the Earl of Spencer, and her stepgrandmother, romance writer Barbara Cartland; also Sheena Easton and Sting, the singers, and Joan and Jackie Collins.

The author and his colleagues claim that 25 of the individuals profiled have no formal secondary education. Eighteen are women, 11 are rock stars, and at least 50 are age 50 or younger. Nationalities of origin are as numerous as they are in this country.

Though not coffee table size, this book certainly would be a conversation piece. It also shows that there has been some democratic progress since the Magna Carta was signed, and that "land of opportunity" is not a slogan that applies only on this side of the Atlantic.

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