Peel Holdings, owners of MediaCityUK, Port Salford, the Manchester Ship Canal and loads of other Salford assets plus property, energy, media and infrastructure interests all over the UK, has assets worth £2.125billion.
Its emperor, John Whittaker, owns 75% of Peel Holdings, as well as other assets that make him personally worth £2.75billion and the 29th richest person in Britain and Ireland, according to The Sunday Times Rich List published today.
While Whittaker, who lives in the Isle of Man tax haven, saw his personal fortune grow by £100million, according to the Rich List, Salford Council and other publicly owned organisations continue to throw public money at Peel Holdings' profit farming ventures, while cutting vital services and axing staff.
In January, the Salford Star revealed that Peel will receive £486.9million in public money, covering almost the entire building costs of MediaCityUK, before raking in profits from its 378 apartments (est value £56million), its car parks, and its office space and studios rented out to private sector companies, including ITV (see here).
Also in January, Peel Holdings was the recipient of the Salford Star Mary Burns `Feed The Rich' Award (see here) for, amongst other things, profiting from a £22million loan from Salford City Council towards its joint venture Salford City Stadium, plus a £15million loan towards Port Salford (see here).
And in February, the Salford Star exposed how, in the weeks leading up to £24million of Salford Council cuts, the Council had agreed to underwrite almost £2million of a Heritage Lottery bid to tart up the Peel-owned Bridgewater Canal, while Peel itself committed only £50,000 (see here).
While Peel Holdings, backed by the immensely wealthy Saudi conglomerate, Olayan Group, takes millions of pounds worth of public money towards its projects, its commitment to the public is less than huge.
As well as ejecting legitimate pickets and a local council candidate from the `public piazza' at MediaCityUK (see here), during 2010-11 Peel donated just £17,000 to charity. Also, this weekend the Salford Star received a personal appeal to John Whittaker by Laurence Sharpe-Stevens, who served on HMS Plymouth in the seventies, begging him not to scrap the famous Falklands warship, which now docks in Birkenhead and is owned by Peel…
"Mr John Whittaker is the owner of Peel Holdings the parent company of Peel Ports" Laurence Sharpe Stevens writes "This man holds the fate of HMS Plymouth in his hands but for some unknown reason seems totally indifferent to her predicament and the Historic importance of this vessel to the British nation.
"We respect his personal achievement in making Peel Holdings the multi-million pound company that it is today" he adds "However with such wealth and power should come a moral responsibility. In the past such people were also great guardians of our cultural values and heritage. The reason that people like this are able to enjoy the freedom to grow vast business empires is in no small part due to the sacrifice of our servicemen over generations past.
"We cannot help those lost but at the very least we should honour their memory… please do not allow the destruction of this ship and all she stands for" he concludes "Show that you and your company care about our heritage and our young people…"
In response to a question from the BBC, a spokesman for Peel Ports said that while "we are unable to confirm any scrapping operation at present" the company aimed to ensure that "all items of historic value are safely removed and retained for preservation." Nice, eh?
Meanwhile, talking of `cultural values and heritage', John Whittaker's son and Peel supremo, James Whittaker, who lives in leafy Knutsford, will be given the honour of carrying the Olympic Torch through the town on May 31st. We do hope there are no protests from naval servicemen en route.
If you would like to help to save HMS Plymouth from the Peel scrap yard you can sign the petition by clicking here. And for more info on the ship see the Navy Training Corps website at www.navytrainingcorps.org and join the Action Group on www.facebook.com/groups/savehmsplymouth
• Also on The Sunday Times Rich List are Salford's Fred Done and his brother Peter, joint 112th on the list with a wealth estimate of £700million, up by £40million over the last year. Fred Done, The Times states, has a £10million stake in Satellite Information Services (SIS) which has formed a partnership with the Peel Group to manage The Studios at MediaCityUK and other post production and technical stuff. What's the betting on outspoken Fred Done speaking out against the paltry 16 BBC jobs for Salford people that have been created at MediaCityUK?