Wednesday 28 June 2017

Land and shares have been key to passing on Guinness family fortune

Ashford Castle, which is now a luxury hotel in Co Mayo, was once a Guinness property
Ashford Castle, which is now a luxury hotel in Co Mayo, was once a Guinness property
Ned Guinness

Laura Suter

There are few families as famous as the Guinness brewing dynasty, who are still thought to be worth more than £850m.

Arthur Guinness founded Guinness Breweries in 1759. The business was subsequently floated on the stock market, raising £6m at the time. In 1886 Edward Guinness used this money to set up what is thought to be the first ever "family office" - Iveagh Trustees. It was used to run the money for all family members who had a stake in the brewing business, and so had made money from the stock market listing.

The Guinness family continue to appear among the richest families in the world, but what can we learn from how they invested their money? Property features heavily early on. They invested in brewery buildings and other property in Ireland. The family mansions in Ireland, including Iveagh House, which was donated to the state in the 1930s; Ashford Castle, which is now a luxury hotel in Co Mayo; and the Farmleigh mansion in the Phoenix Park.

The family were also early buyers of land in Canada, before it became built-up.

Inside sources say that the family saw the rush to property in the United States but instead chose to invest in the "emerging market" at the time in Canada.

One of their grandest projects was building of Lions Gate Bridge in Vancouver to open up land in West Vancouver that the family owned.

British Pacific Properties was the development company set up to manage the family's 4,000 acres of land in the Canadian city, and is still operating today.

The trend to invest in property and land continues, with Ned Guinness, who is the current Earl of Iveagh, owning the 22,500-acre Elveden estate in Suffolk.

Elveden was bought in 1894. Today the farmland is used to grow vegetables, including around 6pc of the UK's onions being grown at Elveden.

Drink still matters, the family owns a stake of about £200m in Diageo, the company that makes Guinness.

Since the creation of Diageo in 1997, the company's stock price has risen by 561pc, comfortably beating the 162.5pc return from the FTSE 100.

By 2006 the original family trust set up in 1886 was running money for more than 100 family members. In practice it was difficult to accommodate the needs and views of all family members so it was broken up. After this, one segment of the Guinness family opened up its books, in 2010, giving a rare insight into how the family ran their financial affairs.

Lord Iveagh joined up with a hedge fund company to manage his and some other family members' money. They later opened up the family office to external finance, launching funds that anyone could invest.

The funds stated they were "built on the same foundations as the investment philosophy which has served the Guinness family for six generations".

These portfolios highlight the main priority of the Guinness family: wealth preservation. The family were concerned with ensuring the value of the money remained, in order to pass it down through generations, rather than making outsized returns.

This meant that the portfolios were intended to rise when markets rise, but not fall as much when markets plummeted - a goal most investors would aim for.

The family were also focused on spreading their money across assets, to protect against big swings in any one area.

"Spreading or diversifying our investments remains the best way to mitigate risk in our individual portfolios, whether we prefer a cautious approach to investment or we can take higher risk for higher returns," the marketing information of the funds stated.

The family used both "active" management, run by fund managers making stock selection decisions, as well as "passive" management, which tracks an index or the market at a lower cost.

Factsheets on the funds from 2014 show around 50pc of the core Iveagh Wealth portfolio was invested in stocks of companies across the world.

The fund then had 6pc allocated to "absolute return" strategies.

These strategies invest in a range of assets, including stocks, bonds, cash and some alternatives. They aim to reduce the "volatility" of the market, or the large swings between rises and falls.

Another 18pc of the fund is in bonds, including those issued by government and by companies.

Just 0.5pc of the fund sat in cash.

The portfolio then had a 28pc allocation to so-called "alternative" assets. These are assets that are not in the traditional stocks, bonds or cash asset classes.

The fund then had 8.5pc invested in property, which was a key cornerstone of the Guinness family's investing. Another 8pc was in infrastructure, such as toll roads and bridges, with 3pc of assets invested in gold, and 1pc in commodities.

Irish Independent

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