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Opticians feature on Britain’s 2020 Rich List

Specsavers founders Mr Doug and Dame Mary Perkins have featured in Britain’s 2020 Rich List, alongside an optical businessman who sold his contact lens company to CooperVision for more than AU$1 billion.

The Sunday Times compiles the list annually, which is based on wealth estimates of Britain’s 1,000 richest people or families. Sir James Dyson and his family, best known for inventing the Dual Cyclone bagless vacuum cleaner, topped the list with £16.2 billion (AU$30.2 b).

The Perkins family, which founded Specsavers in 1984, came in at 82nd place with an estimated wealth of £1.8 billion (AU$3.3 b).

The husband and wife team, who met during their optometry studies at Cardiff University in the UK, pioneered the joint venture partnership from a table-tennis table in their spare room, with the first store opening on Bond Street, Bristol.

They have aimed to offer affordable and expert eyecare available to all and, in the process, have produced the largest privately-owned opticians’ group in the world. The British multinational now operates in the UK, Republic Ireland, The Netherlands, Spain, the Nordic countries and Australasia where it recently celebrated its 400th store opening.

Dame Mary Perkins was appointed a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List in 2007, the first female optician to reportedly receive the honour. She was also reported to be Britain’s first self-made female billionaire in 2011. Doug Perkins remains as a chairman and joint CEO alongside their son John for Specsavers.

The other optician to appear on the 2020 Rich List was Mr Alan Wells and his family, with an estimated wealth of £200 million (AU$373 m).

Wells was an optician in southwest London when he set up a contact lens business that went on to have factories in London, Kent and Hungary.

He later sold the business, Sauflon Pharmaceuticals, to CooperVision in 2014 for £700 million (AU$1.3 b).

At the time, CooperVision said the acquisition meant it could offer the most extensive range of daily disposable contact lens options to eyecare practitioners and wearers worldwide.

According to The Sunday Times, the valuations were carried out up to the end of April to take account of the early economic impacts of the coronavirus lockdown. It has adjusted valuations of the richest 1,000 where there have been significant movements in the share prices of quoted companies, estimating the knock-on effect on the fortunes of owners of large stakes in those companies.

The publication measures identifiable wealth, assessing land, property, racehorses, art or significant shares in publicly quoted companies. It excludes bank accounts to which it has no access and small shareholdings in a private equity.