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Grosvenor Group owner Duke of Westminster dies

The billionaire landowner, whose family wealth dates back to the 17th Century, died on Tuesday after suddenly being taken ill. 

The Duke of Westminster, the owner of the London-based property firm The Grosvenor Group, has died.

Gerald Cavendish Grosvenor, the 6th Duke of Westminster, was one of Britain’s richest men and most influential landlords. He invested heavily in London property and owned large amounts of commercial and residential space in some of the city’s most expensive areas.

His property company, The Grosvenor Group, has offices in 18 cities across the globe; four regional investment and development businesses in Britain and Ireland, the Americas, Australia and Asia Pacific; an international fund management business, which operates across these markets and in continental Europe; and a portfolio of indirect investments.

In April, Grosvenor Fund Management, the firm’s de facto third-party real estate investment management business, which had retrenched from a global operation to be European markets focused, rebranded as Grosvenor Europe.

The Duke’s fortune was estimated at £9.4 billion ($12.3 billion; €10.9 billion) in the 2016 Sunday Times Rich List, making him the world’s 68th richest person and the UK’s sixth. He was reported to have earned £37.7 million last year after his property empire paid out its first dividend in six years. However, the estate was reportedly hit by a global stock market rout in the wake of the UK’s decision to leave the European Union.

Although the Grosvenor family’s history stretches back almost a 1,000 years to the time of William the Conqueror, the family’s prodigious wealth dates back to the marriage between Sir Thomas Grosvenor and the heiress Mary Davies in 1677. The Davies family owned vast swathes of swamps, pastures and orchards to the west of the City of London, in what is now known as Mayfair and Belgravia. Of the original 500 acres of land owned by the family, 300 acres remain today forming Grosvenor’s London estate.

A statement on the group’s website demonstrates the firm and family’s longevity. It reads: “We have been actively managing our London estate since 1677 through numerous economic cycles, conflicts, the industrial revolution, technological change and globalization.”

In June, The Grosvenor Group completed the last known transaction before the Duke’s death, the £96 million sale of office building 20 Grosvenor Street, in London’s Mayfair, to a client of Luxembourg-based fund and asset management group Shaftesbury on a 125-year lease.

A spokesman for the Grosvenor Group said: “It is with the greatest sadness that we can confirm that the Duke of Westminster, Gerald Cavendish Grosvenor, died this afternoon at Preston Royal Infirmary. He was taken there from the Abbeystead Estate in Lancashire where he had suddenly been taken ill.”

“His family are all aware and they ask for privacy and understanding at this very difficult time. No further comment will be made for the time being but further information will follow in due course,” the spokesman added.