EURO NEWS: Man of the moment: Gerald Cavendish Grosvenor

The keys to a £13.1 billion ($16.9 billion; €15.1 billion) empire were passed from one generation to the next last month following the unexpected death of Gerald Cavendish Grosvenor, the 6th Duke of Westminster and owner of London-based property firm The Grosvenor Group, at the age of 64.

The Duke’s only son Hugh Grosvenor will not only inherit his father’s £9.4 billion fortune and 165,000 acre estate but also the role of owner of The Grosvenor Group. But at just 25 years young, the 7th Duke of Westminster may well initially take a back seat while his father’s trusted lieutenants, such as the recently appointed executive trustee Mark Preston, assume temporary control.

After a promising career in the military in the early 1970s, the elder Grosvenor reluctantly inherited the Dukedom following the death of his father in 1979. The new Duke became the richest property developer in the UK and one of the country’s largest landowners with property across the UK, including 300 acres in Mayfair and Belgravia in central London.

One of his first moves as head of the estate was to buy up offices, shops and residential assets across North America in the 1980s, before buying similar assets in Asia and then in Europe in the early 1990s.

Later that decade, The Grosvenor Group began to explore emerging markets such as India and China, as well as turning its attention to Brazil where, 20 years later, it would form an investment partnership with Brazilian property management company Sonae Sierra.

It was also under the Duke’s chairmanship that in 2005 the business formalized its third-party capital management platform, Grosvenor Fund Management (GFM), which now encompasses the Americas, Asia Pacific, Europe and Australia.

In 2007, Grosvenor delegated the day-to-day running of the company to his chief executives but positioned himself to participate in key decisions where deemed appropriate.

Prior to his death, the Duke’s fortune was estimated at £9.4 billion in the 2016 Sunday Times’ ‘Rich List’, making him the world’s 68th richest person and the UK’s sixth. 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, just six weeks before Grosvenor’s death, losing around £727 million.

But resilience is one of the key traits of The Grosvenor Group, having seen off some 30 economic downturns in its 340-year history.