08 May 2003 – The Independent
Its easy to see how David and Simon Reuben can afford to buy Selfridges. They have £1bn in cash or very liquid assets to call upon.
Until recent, they kept a low profile but lately they have wanted to make people aware of their great wealth – put at £2.1bn, making them the fifth richest families in Britain.
Earlier this year, they made a decision to step into the limelight and begin to take their place among Britain’s business establishment. They committed themselves to pulling off a high-profile acquisition by the end of this year, they hired a leading spin-doctor and set up a website (www.reubenbrothers.com) where you can read their description of themselves and their businesses.
The Reubens considered entering the very public bidding contests for Safeways and for six Continents but decided neither was for them. Now Selfridges has caught their eye. They already own some trophy assets in London, including Millbank Tower in Westminster.
Property is one of the two strands of the family fortune, which was made after they made their way to London in the 1950s. They are Iraqi Jews by origin but they grew up in Bombay, India’s most cosmopolitan city, where their father was a textile trader.
Simon, now 61, went into the real estate business dealing in scrap metal. Simon describes himself as “the investor” while David is “the trader” and the one who has had the more exotic business career.
David Reuben started out in 1958 working in the UK, before joining a sophisticated metals trading operation in the 1970s. In 1977, he started his own metal trading business, Trans-World Group, working out of London and New York. By 1984, the company was worth £20m but it was Russia, as it opened up in the 1990s that provided the really substantial fortune, from producing aluminium in the country. By 1995, the company had a turnover of nearly $7bn and accounted for 5per cent of the world’s aluminium output. But the business climate in Russia began to sour in the late Nineties and in 2000, Trans-World sold its interests in Russia. That deal appears to be the main source of the liquid assets the brothers are now sitting on.
Meanwhile Simon was making his own millions. He started out in the carpets business but by 1970, he moved into property. David, based in London, and Simon who lives in Monaco, now deal mostly in property. They own 100 buildings in the UK, worth around £1bn. But they are very keen to find new businesses in which they can invest their massive cash pile.