25 March 2003 – The Guardian
One of the most wealthy and secretive business families in Britain yesterday stepped into the public spotlight with a new website and a verbal commitment to land a groundbreaking deal, probably before the end of the year.
David and Simon Reuben, who are together believed to be worth more than £2bn, have already run the slide rule over Safeways and Six Continents, according to a spokesman for a City public relations firm.
The website, launched yesterday, explains how the brothers are “currently looking at a number of new business ventures”. The decision to raise their profile is said to be part of an attempt to be recognised as mainstream business players – apparently hoping to emulate people such as the Barclay Brothers and Philip Green.
The website explains how the Reuben family is sitting on “substantial liquid reserves”. A bid for the supermarket chain – against Mr Green – is not said to be likely but the brothers are interested in anything that is either pure property or property related.
Retail and hotel groups apparently fit into this category for a family which has around half its wealth tied up in buildings such as Millbank Centre where the Labour Party had its London command centre.
In the space of two paragraphs the website – reubenbrothers.com – carries few details and gives the history of how the brothers, raised in India by an Iraqi mother, came about their wealth.
“Over the past 35 years David and Simon Reuben have built a highly successful metals and real estate business. Having sold the metals business in 2000, they now hold substantial liquid assets,” is all it says.
But the family’s spokesman said this was just the first web offering and it would be far more detailed as soon as various technical problems were overcome. Even so there will be no accounts published on the completed site.
The spokesman – from a City public relations group – said the decision to become more open at this stage was a natural progression for what was the equivalent of a substantial corporate entity.
“They have not watched others with envy at the amount of publicity they get and do not crave the limelight but they are cash rich and would like people to bring projects their way,” said the spokesman.
The spokesman agrees that the brothers’ big money spinner was TransWorld, a company formed by David Reuben which took advantage of the collapse of the Soviet Union to become a massive player in aluminium. It once had sales of nearly $7bn (£4.4bn) and accounted for 5% of world aluminium production.
Simon Reuben had started in British real estate but joined his brother – and critically two Russian siblings, Lev and Michael Chernoy – in the aluminium trade.
There is no mention on the website of the Reubens’ first attempt to break cover when an interview in Fortune magazine led to allegations of links with the Russian mafia and a legal suit by the brothers.
Yesterday their spokesman said the accusation was “absolutely wrong”. He said the brothers had come into contact with the mafia but in an adversarial way because the criminal organisation had tried to muscle in on its aluminium business. This “battle” with the mafia was one of the reasons why the Reubens bailed out of Russia, selling their assets there in 2000.
The Reubens have structured their property portfolio in Britain and abroad around a host of single-purpose investment vehicles. These assets are managed by their London-based advisory company Motcomb Estates. They have also moved into the charity arena by establishing the Reuben Foundation which targets donations towards education and healthcare.
Both brothers are British citizens but while David lives principally in London, Simon spends much of his time in Monaco. They were unavailable for comment.