Duke of Westminster dies aged 64: Britain's third richest man had strong UAE ties

Britain’s wealthiest landowner, the Duke of Westminster, has died aged 64.

Gerald Cavendish Grosvenor, Britain’s third richest man, died late on Tuesday in Lancashire after being taken ill suddenly on his Abbeystead Estate near Lancaster.

The sixth Duke, who was ranked 68th richest billionaire in the world by Forbes with a calculated wealth of £8.3 billion (Dh39.72bn), was on close personal terms with Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, and Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Presidential Affairs.

A great patron of charities for wounded veterans, the Duke visited the UAE in October 2014 seeking support for two humanitarian projects, a field hospital for Syrian refugees, and a Dh1.8 billion military rehabilitation hospital in the UK, the extra capacity of which will be used to help refugees and wounded soldiers from friendly countries such as the UAE.

The Duke, who served as Britain’s most senior Territorial Army officer with the rank of major-general, donated his Grade II-listed Stanford Hall estate in Leicestershire, to become a treatment centre for wounded soldiers and civilians and also made a £50 million donation from his personal fortune to the £300m renovation costs.

Construction work on the Defence & National Rehabilitation Centre started in 2015 and is expected to be completed in 2018. The Duke spoke of the centre, which will treat soldiers and civilians suffering from trauma, neurological injury and mental health issues as his life’s achievement.

“What I find so interesting about the UAE in particular is how they’ve risen to the challenge of becoming very international in their outlook and the way they’re doing business,” the duke said at the time. “They’ve almost taken the West by surprise in the way they’ve become internationally responsible, in the way they’re conducting foreign affairs. It’s been a revelation to me.”

As well as members of the British royal family, including the Queen and Prince William, armed forces charity the Royal British Legion was among the many expressing condolences. “We’re extrememly sad to hear of the passing of the Duke of Westminster,” it tweeted. “His commitment to both charity and the armed forces will be remembered.”

Born in Northern Ireland in 1951, the Duke was educated at Harrow and the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst, the officer training school also attended by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, the Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai and

After Sandhurst the Duke aspired to embark on a career in the British military but that ambition was cut short when he found himself inheriting at the age of 27 the vast Grosvenor Estate comprising 300 acres in Belgravia and Mayfair, two of London’s most exclusive and expensive districts.

During his long tenure as Britain’s wealthiest landowner, the Duke oversaw massive modernisation plans, turning an aristocratic landed estate into the modern property company Grosvenor.

“Given the choice, I would rather not have been born wealthy, but I never think of giving it up. I can’t sell. It doesn’t belong to me,” he once said.

The Duke is survived by his wife Natalia, one son and three daughters, Lady Tamara, Lady Edwina and Lady Viola. His title will be inherited by his 25 year old son Hugh Richard Louis Grosvenor.

lbarnard@thenational.ae

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